Patients Attribute Shingles to Zostavax Vaccine
The pharmaceutical company Merck & Co. received FDA approval for the Zostavax vaccine in 2006. Zostavax is a one-dose vaccine that reduces the risk of the painful viral infection known as shingles by 51%. Due to the increased likelihood of developing shingles for those 60 years and above, the CDC recommended the Zostavax vaccine to prevent shingles. The vaccine protects for roughly five years and is most effective in patients 60 years and older. Yet, lawsuits allege patients contracted Shingles after receiving the Zostavax vaccine.
Plaintiffs claim to have developed shingles from the weakened strain of the shingles virus present in Zostavax. The live virus within Zostavax helps the body create antibodies to combat shingles in the future. However, lawsuits accuse the vaccine of failing to prepare the body for shingles and instead causing the patients to develop shingles.
Federal Judge Throws Out Zostavax Shingles Lawsuits
Merck secured the exit of over 1,100 lawsuits in the Zostavax MDL that allege the shot caused plaintiffs to suffer from shingles. Judge Bartle ruled plaintiffs failed to provide sufficient evidence that Zostavax was responsible for their injuries, not the reactivated shingles (wild-type) strain already present in their bodies if they had chickenpox as children. Lab analysis of the plaintiffs’ rashes is the only option to determine whether the Zostavax-strain or the wild-type strain caused the disease. Yet, Judge Bartle wrote that none of the plaintiffs submitted laboratory evidence that the strain in Zostavax was the culprit.
This motion effectively wipes out over half of the Zostavax MDL, but this has not led to the MDL’s demise. While plaintiffs plan to appeal Judge Bartle’s order, a separate group of cases in the Zostavax MDL remains.
Other Zostavax Lawsuits Claim Autoimmune Disorders and Hearing Damage
The court divided the Zostavax multidistrict litigation into two distinct groups. Group A consisted of claims that the varicella-zoster virus from Zostavax caused individuals to develop shingles. Group B, on the other hand, deals with claims that Zostavax causes autoimmune disorders or hearing loss. A few of the autoimmune disorders named in these lawsuits include paralysis, lymph node disease, disseminated encephalomyelitis, and hemorrhagic strokes.
While Merck has avoided shingles allegations related to Zostavax for now, the company still faces arguably the most pressing and severe claims of autoimmune disorders and hearing loss linked to the vaccine. Furthermore, Merck is also battling lawsuits surrounding its HPV vaccine Gardasil in multidistrict litigation.