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Zostavax Vaccine Shingles Outbreak Left Woman With Discolored Skin, Lawsuit Claims

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According to allegations raised in a growing number of product liability lawsuits, side effects of the Zostavax vaccine have been linked to a wide number of painful complications, not the least of which is the very shingles the vaccine was intended to prevent.

In a complaint (PDF) filed last week in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, plaintiff Martha Conrad indicates that her encounter with the vaccine resulted in an extended bout of shingles, as well as skin discoloration and other problems.

Conrad was inoculated with Zostavax in September 2017, for the prevention of shingles. However, in October 2018 she developed a rash on her right lower leg, which was later diagnosed as shingles. The lawsuit indicates the outbreak lasted for several weeks, resulting in skin discoloration.

Zostavax was the first shingles vaccine, which was introduced in 2006, involving a single-dose injection that contains a live virus designed to vaccinate older adults against the development of the disease. However, the vaccine has largely been abandoned by the medical community after it was linked to a large number of reports involving severe complications, where individuals experienced more persistent shingles outbreaks, as well as other infections and auto-immune disorders, shortly after exposure to Zostavax.

“The Zostavax vaccine, as designed, researched, manufactured, tested, advertised, promoted, marketed, sold, and distributed by Merck was defective in design and formulation in that when it left the hands of the manufacturers, suppliers, and distributors, the foreseeable risks of harm caused by the product exceeded the claimed benefits of the product,” the lawsuit states. “Plaintiff could not, by the exercise of reasonable care, discover the defective condition of Merck’s product and/or perceived its defective dangers prior to its administration by her physicians and/or healthcare providers.”

The complaint joins hundreds of other Zostavax lawsuits filed by individuals throughout the U.S. Court System, each raising similar allegations that the Merck shingles vaccine contained a live-virus that was not sufficiently weakened to avoid reactivating the dormant virus in some individuals.

Given similar questions of fact and law raised in shingles vaccine lawsuits filed throughout the federal court system, the litigation has been centralized before U.S. District Judge Harvey Bartle III in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, for coordinated discovery and pretrial proceedings.

As part of the coordinated litigation, Judge Bartle has scheduled a series of early “bellwether” trials, which are designed to help gauge how juries may respond to certain evidence and testimony that may be repeated throughout the claims. However, if Merck fails to reach Zostavax settlements or another resolution for the litigation, each individual lawsuit may eventually be remanded back to different U.S. District courts nationwide for separate trial dates in the future.

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