Lawyers for Zostavax Shingles Vaccine Injuries

Marc J. Bern & Partners and its professional team are reviewing potential lawsuits on behalf of people who got shingles or chickenpox after receiving the Zostavax vaccination.  Zostavax contains a “weakened” or “attenuated” form of varicella zoster, the chickenpox virus that also causes shingles. The drug is designed to stimulate the immune system in an effort to keep the virus dormant and prevent shingles. Zostavax is made by Merck & Co., and was approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) in May 2006.  The Zostavax vaccine has recently been found to be ineffective, produce a range of serious side effects and cause shingles, the virus the vaccine is used to treat.  If we determine that you have a valid claim, you may be entitled to compensation to assist with medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other damages.

Zostavax may cause meningitis, encephalitis, stroke, and other brain injuries.

Merck’s Zostavax is the only FDA approved vaccine for the prevention of shingles. Shingles is caused by the chickenpox virus, varicella zoster.  Since Zostavax contains live virus the vaccine can cause the disease it was meant prevent.

The virus contained in Zostavax can cause chickenpox and shingles (herpes zoster). Chickenpox and shingles can cause serious damage to the nervous system including meningitis, encephalitis, acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM), and stroke.

Risks of Zostavax

Zostavax is essentially the same vaccine used for chickenpox, except significantly stronger. The live varicella zoster virus contained in Zostavax differs from natural varicella zoster virus in that its ability to cause disease is reduced or “attenuated”. Attenuated vaccines are designed to activate the immune system with the decreased risk of actually developing the disease.

The current label for ZOSTAVAX provides that the vaccine may cause:

  • allergic reactions, which may be serious and may include difficulty in breathing or swallowing
  • fever
  • hives at the injection site
  • joint pain
  • muscle pain
  • nausea
  • rash
  • rash at the injection site
  • swollen glands near the injection site (that may last a few days to a few weeks)

Since Zostavax can cause chickenpox or shingles, then it can cause significant injury resulting in injury to the brain and heart.

These injuries include:

  • Intense neuropathic pain

Brain injuries like:

  • Encephalitis, an acute inflammation of the brain
  • Acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM) is an immune-mediated inflammatory encephalopathy
  • Stroke
  • Ataxia (trouble walking)
  • Hypertonia (increased muscle tone)
  • Hypotonia (decreased muscle tone), and
  • Hemiparesis (weakness on one-side of the body)

Injury to the heart like:

  • Cardiomyopathy

Signs and symptoms of shingles

When the varicella zoster virus reactivates, it causes shingles. Shingles is characterized by a skin rash that is extremely painful. Shingles first manifests itself by a pain that tingles or burns at a single site on one side of the body. The rash appears after a few days and may even blister. The rash can last for up to thirty days. Shingles is mainly a disease of the elderly, but younger persons can get it. One out of every five people who get shingles end up with nerve pain that can last months and even years. Once a person has had chickenpox, the virus remains dormant in their body. Later in life, if the immune system becomes weakened, the virus can reactivate to cause shingles.  Zostavax contains a “weakened” form of the varicella virus, which stimulates the immune system in an effort to keep the virus dormant.

According to Merck, manufacturer of the Zostavax vaccine, it is only effective in about half of patients (other studies have found it to be far less effective), and it may also cause the very disease it is intended to prevent — shingles — as well as chickenpox. There is also some indication that Zostavax may increase the risk of death.  According to the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC), there were over 1,100 reports made to the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS) from 1990 until September 2015 related to shingles vaccines. Of these, at least 90 reports involved the death of a patient who had received the vaccination.

Complications of Chickenpox in Adults

Adults are more likely than children to die from chickenpox and suffer adverse health complications resulting from varicella infection, according to the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID).

Complications may include:

  • Dehydration
  • Joint infections
  • Toxic shock syndrome
  • Pneumonia
  • Blood stream infections (sepsis)
  • Bleeding problems
  • Infection or inflammation of the brain (encephalitis, cerebellar ataxia)
  • Bone infections

Does Zostavax Really Work?

Shingles can be a debilitating condition, especially for seniors who most often develop it. However, it has recently been found that the Zostavax vaccination is only effective in barely half of the people who receive it, making the potential health risks associated with the drug not worth the benefits. In August 2014, the FDA required Merck to add “shingles” to the list of possible side effects of Zostavax on the product’s labeling and packaging insert.


All cases are reviewed by our Zostavax lawyers on a contingency fee basis, which means there are no out-of-pocket expenses to hire our lawyers and we receive no attorney fees unless we are successful with the case. To review a potential case for yourself, your child or family member, request a free consultation and claim evaluation.


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