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A group of 15 plaintiffs have filed a Zostavax lawsuit in the Superior Court of New Jersey, Middlesex County. They claim that after being injected with the Zostavax, a vaccine designed to reduce the risk of shingles in individuals 60 and over, they suffered serious injuries. They all claim that the vaccine was defectively designed and manufactured, and that the manufacturer, Merck Co. Inc., failed to provide adequate warnings about the risks associated with it.

Plaintiffs Suffer from Zostavax-Related Shingles and Nerve Damage

According to the complaint, the plaintiffs are from a variety of states, including North Dakota, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Mississippi, Florida, Michigan, Tennessee, Colorado, Minnesota, Louisiana, Oregon, New Hampshire, Kentucky and North Carolina.

Most of the plaintiffs claim that instead of preventing shingles as intended, the vaccine, actually caused them to contract a herpes zoster infection from which they suffered extensive complications. One plaintiff from North Dakota, for example, developed the infection after being vaccinated and suffered a blistering vesicular outbreak and weakened immune symptoms.

She was later diagnosed with “Trigeminal Neuralgia,” a secondary nerve disorder that causes electric-shock-like facial pains. As a result, she suffered from pain in her eyes, trouble eating and facial paralysis.

Some of the other plaintiffs also experienced nerve damage associated with shingles, and all underwent painful and difficult-to-treat blistering shingles rashes.

Zostavax Exposes the Immune System to the Herpes Zoster Virus

The Zostavax vaccine contains a small amount of live herpes zoster virus, and is intended to stimulate the immune system to build up a resistance to it. The FDA approved it in 2006 for the prevention of shingles in those 60 years and older, and it was later approved for use in those aged 50-59 as well. It is the only shingles vaccine currently available in the U.S.

The same virus that causes chickenpox—herpes zoster—also causes shingles later in life. Those who had chickenpox have the virus in their systems. It hides away in the nerve roots, and can lay dormant for decades. If the immune system slows down, which often occurs with age, disease, or stress, it can reappear as shingles, which create painful, blistering rashes that start in the nerves and erupt on the skin.

Shingles a Noted Risk of Zostavax in Clinical Trials

The plaintiffs claim that the patient information sheet that accompanied the Zostavax vaccine did not adequately address the risk of viral infection. Instead, it mostly addressed the risk that a rash and itching might develop at the injection site. This, the plaintiffs note, was despite the fact that “shingles was a noted occurrence during clinical trials of the vaccine.”

They also note that as of September 2015, there were 1,111 reports of serious adverse events related to Zostavax, including 36 deaths. They bring counts of negligence, defective design, failure to warn, breach of warranties, conscious misrepresentation involving risk of physical harm, strict liability, and unjust enrichment. They seek both compensatory and punitive damages.

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