Monday, April 22, 2024


“You may choose to look the other way, but you can never say again that you did not know.”

— William Wilberforce


Merck Sued Over Zostavax-Related Injury

balance of justice

Story Highlights

  • A woman in Wisconsin is suing Merck & Co., claiming the company’s shingles vaccine Zostavax caused her to develop herpes zoster (shingles) instead of protecting her from it.
  • Live virus vaccines have the potential for causing vaccine strain infections of the diseases they are supposed to prevent, and Merck is currently facing 60 other lawsuits pertaining to Zostavax.
  • Merck is currently facing 60 other lawsuits pertaining to Zostavax, as manufacturers of shingles vaccines are not protected from lawsuits under the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986 because the Act only covers CDC recommended vaccines for children and, since Congress amended the Act in 2016, now also covers CDC recommended vaccines for pregnant women.

Merck & Co., maker of the first anti-shingles vaccine, Zostavax, is being sued by a woman in Wisconsin who holds the company responsible for her vaccine-induced herpes zoster (shingles).1 After recovery from a varicella zoster (chickenpox) infection, the varicella zoster virus stays dormant in the body and can re-emerge later in life as herpes zoster (shingles) if the person does not receive asymptomatic “boosting” of immunity by coming in contact with children infected with chickenpox. 

Theories as to what triggers shingles disease includes weakening of the immune system with age (in the past, shingles occurred most commonly in people over age 50) and lack of the immune system boost that resulted from repeated re-exposure to wild chickenpox before the varicella (chickenpox) vaccine was licensed in 1995 and states passed laws mandating its use by all children in the U.S.2 3

The lawsuit asserts that, rather than protecting the plaintiff from the painful condition, the live virus Zostavax vaccine actually caused her to develop repeated outbreaks of shingles. Since she was vaccinated on Nov. 8, 2011, the woman‘s episodes have progressed to include treatment-resistant “post-herpetic neuralgia,” a complication of shingles resulting in persistent, burning nerve pain that lasts far beyond resolution of the initial rash. Despite long-term treatment with pain medications including morphine, the woman said that she now lives with constant chronic pain from the Zostavax vaccination.

Vaccine Strain Infection Known Risk of Live Virus Vaccines

This woman is not alone. The number of lawsuits against Merck for failing to disclose all available information about the risks of Zostavax vaccine has gained the attention of numerous law firms. Lawsuits have been charging that patients have suffered from side effects ranging from rashes, hives, headache, fever, nausea, and joint or muscle pain to blindness, hearing loss, paralysis, brain damage, and fatal liver failure.4

Live virus vaccines can cause vaccine strain virus shedding, infection and transmission and this vaccine complication has been long known and reported in the medical literature.5 Activating rather than preventing shingles is recognized as a possible adverse effect for Zostavax because it is a live virus vaccine and has the potential to cause the disease it is designed to prevent. As of August 2014, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) required that Merck add a warning about the potential for vaccine strain infection to the list of side effects associated with the shingles vaccine.

Other potential serious adverse effects include pain, swelling and redness at the injection site; headache; fever; shock; joint and muscle pain; swollen glands; and respiratory symptoms; severe eye infections that can lead to blindness; and death. As of May 31, 2018, 42,604 complaints of shingles vaccine reactions have been reported to the federal Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS). That number includes 128 vaccine-related deaths, 850 hospitalizations, and 660 related disabilities.6

Shingles Vaccines Manufacturers Not Protected Against Lawsuits

Importantly, the shingles vaccine “is one of the few vaccines not covered by the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986, which means individual may sue the vaccine manufacturer directly for vaccine injuries associated with the vaccine. Currently Merck, the manufacturer for Zostavax, is defending itself against 60 lawsuits that allege the vaccine caused serious side effects, including death.”7

GlaxoSmithKline has a recently licensed shingles vaccine, Shingrix, that is competing with Merck’s Zostavax. The newer Shingrix is a genetically engineered and adjuvanted recombinant vaccine. Though purportedly effective in preventing shingles in 90 percent of patients, there are no long-term data on safety or effectiveness of Shingrix or its novel adjuvant, QS-21 Stimulon (an extract from the bark of an evergreen tree).

1 Luhana R. Wisconsin Woman Suffers Chronic Pain After Zostavax Vaccination. The Pittsburgh Legal Examiner July 26, 2018.
2 National Vaccine Information Center. Varicella Zoster (Chickenpox) Disease and Vaccine. Quick Facts 2018.
3 Goldman GS. The US Universal Varicella Vaccination Program: CDC Censorship of Adverse Public Health Consequences. Annals of Clinical Pathology Mar. 31, 2018.
4 Fisher BL. The Emerging Risks of Live Virus and Virus Vectored Vaccines: Vaccine Strain Virus Infection, Shedding and Transmission. November 2014
5 Zostavax Lawsuit. Mar. 9, 2018.
6 NVIC. Herpes Zoster (Shingles) & Shingles Vaccine Quick Facts. 2018.
NVIC. Can Shingles Vaccine Cause Injury and Death? 2018.

15 Responses

  1. Don’t play with fire, leave well enough alone. There is only one thing you can trust about PHARMA and it: this:they don’t make money off a dead people and they don’t make money off of well people. They make money off of sick people, and the sicker you are, the more you need them. So do everything you can to never need them.

  2. Got my vaccine after my first outbreak of shingles was over & have had shingles every fall since 🙁 & these require Acyclovir (generic) to prevent the spread on my face :(!

  3. I am based in the UK and am a fit and healthy 70 year old male..However, having had the Zostavax vaccine 6 weeks ago I have been in pain ever since. Chicken pox rash, painful arm / hand, sleepless nights etc. I am now on anti-depressants -amitryptilene. This is the worst I have ever felt in my life! It’s a pity there are no UK lawyers to take on cases here to sue Merck .

  4. I had the Zostavax vaccine and after three weeks I had hearing loss in my right ear I have had all the test done MRI, CT SCANS BLOOD TEST, NIGHT IN THE STROKE WARD, EYE TEST, ENT TESTS, ALL com back ok and the ENT Specialist could not tell me why my hearing has basically disappeared, the only answer in my opinion is the Vaccine.

  5. Several years ago I was given the vaccine. Ever since, I periodically have irritating prickly feelings all over my scalp! I would have much preferred to have shingles one time than to have this continue until I die !
    I am especially upset with the way it was given to me. I was having a routine checkup and after visiting the doctor the nurse is coming at me with this needle and I said “What’s that ?” and they said that the doctor prescribed this vaccine for shingles and zip zip, he gave me the shot ! I was so upset ! I wanted time to think about it, get research etc. Doctors should give an information sheet first ! Then give the vaccine on the next visit. Have some time to give consent !
    I never know when this pain is going to hit me, or how long it will stay “this time”. I use things like soft ice packs on my head, put arnica on my scalp to feel the pain less, take a pill pain killer. But nothing is reliable. The other night I was up all night with it ! I find it difficult to focus on any work……imagine a drip drip drip type torture that is also painful at the same time.
    I’m irritable and snarky to people until it finally goes away……And I have no idea about what will bring it on the next time !!
    Has anyone else had these symptoms….most mention ‘right after the shot’, but this is years now !!

    1. I have had Shingles 4 times now at least and other skin conditions that no one can figure out what they are or what has caused them, including on my scalp. This started for me within a year or so after receiving the vaccine which was recommended by my physician at the time so that I would not get Shingles. I have never been told by any physician that they knew there were others out there with bad reactions to the vaccine. I don’t know if they had not heard about this or what?? Now they want me to get the new vaccine since I have had so many outbreaks. I don’t think so! Not until it has been proven to be effective and does not have all of these side effects for some people. I am terrified this will go on forever and I wish someone would educate the Dr’s out there giving these immunizations and Dermatologists that probably are seeing these patients with the issues and Immunologists.

  6. I received the vaccine in March of 2015. The following May 2016 had a breakout of shingles. I was given the shot by nurse practitioner without any warning saying “the doctor wants you to have the shot”. No explanation or Information.
    I have had two additional outbreaks since 2016, one in 2018 and presently experiencing another outbreak. I was perfectly healthy before being injected without my permission. Really feel the shot is making big money for pharmaceutical companies while causing some receivers with shingles.

  7. I had the shot in 2010. After that, my eye doc said I had high pressure in my eyes n can no longer get my eyes dialated except in the mornings in case the pressure goes up in my eyes. I developed COPD, many hospitalions for pneumonia, itchy blistering rashes on my scalp neck n back of my arms, which I still get. And I’m sure the shot killed my husband. And I get wretched head aches.

  8. My husband and I both received our shingrix vaccination in November 2018 this was my second one it was his first about a month-and-a-half after he received the vaccination he lost his hearing about two months after that he did gain some hearing back but it’s not where it was before he received the vaccination he saw several doctors nobody could explain it there was no infection it just happened

  9. I also have had several outbreaks of shingles starting about one year after receiving the Zostavax vaccine. I considered vaccines safe and well researched until Zostavax. Wish I had never taken it. The potential side effects should be well weighed out against the probability of developing shingles. The literature indicates 3.4 people per hundred will develop shingles, the vaccine drops that to 1.7 people and then Merck calls this a 50% reduction, shame on Merck and the medical community for taking in millions of dollars for this damaging vaccine. My reason to write today is that just yesterday I developed vestibular neuritis, total hearing loss in one ear which causes major dizziness and nausea. I am now on heavy doses of steroids and throwing up many times every day. We should start asking if the executives at Merck and their families are being vaccinated!

  10. I had this shot in 2012. Lost most hearing in left ear April 5 2013. ear infection lasted month’s no meds helped. had to be tubbed. now have permanent partial hearing lost. had ischemic optic neuropathy “eye stroke” in right eye Sept 19 2013. had the same in left eye Dec. 26 2018,Feb 26 2019. now legality blind in left eye. have suffered with bad nerve pain. Have shingles single spots all over back and scalp. Just found out this is what I believe to have. Been to Many Drs. Not one has mention Zostavax may be my trouble. they just keep running test and not knowing I DON’T BUY THAT THIS MANY YEARS LATER!!!! If I could turned back time this shot would have never happen!!! sick in VA.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Search in Archive