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A Wisconsin woman has filed a new Zostavax lawsuit in the U. S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin. She names as defendant manufacturer Merck & Co., Inc., and claims that the company should be held liable for the injuries she suffered after receiving the shingles vaccination.

Plaintiff Suffers Chronic Pain After Zostavax Allegedly Caused Shingles

According to her complaint, the plaintiff was inoculated with the Zostavax vaccine on November 8, 2011. Her physician, who recommended it for the prevention of shingles, ordered the vaccine. Shingles are painful, blistering rashes that form in the nerves and erupt onto the skin.

The herpes zoster virus—the same virus that causes chickenpox—causes shingles. Anyone who’s had chickenpox has the virus in their system. Even after the disease has passed, the virus can remain latent in the body, ready to be reawakened later on. Though scientists aren’t sure exactly what causes the virus to reoccur, they believe it is related to the way the immune system slows down and becomes less effective as people age. Shingles are most common in seniors.

Instead of protecting against the shingles, Zostavax actually caused shingles, according to the plaintiff, and she suffered a series of painful shingles outbreaks. These eventually resulted in “post-herpetic neuralgia,” which is a complication of shingles that affects nerve fibers in the skin, causing burning pain that lasts long after the rashes have disappeared.

The plaintiff claims that her post-herpetic neuralgia has been resistant to all therapies. She’s been treated multiple times for the blisters and rashes and unrelenting pain, and has suffered nerve damage. She takes multiple medications for pain, including morphine. She has lost significant weight and now lives with chronic pain which she attributes to the Zostavaz vaccine.

Zostavax Linked with Serious Side Effects

Zostavax is made up of a small amount of live virus and is designed to stimulate the immune system to prevent shingles. The FDA approved the vaccine in 2006 for the prevention of shingles in people 60 years and older, and in 2011 for the prevention of shingles in people age 50-59, as well.

The vaccine can actually cause the disease in some people, however. In August 2014, the FDA required Merck to add “infections and infestations” to the list of possible drug side effects after discovering that the vaccine could actually cause shingles in some people.

In 2015, the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) reported there were 1,141 serious adverse events reported in connection with the vaccine. Over 33 percent occurred in seniors 65-75 years old.

In addition to causing the disease it was meant to prevent, Zostavax has also been linked to other serious side effects, including serious eye disorders like necrotizing retinitis and keratitis, both inflammatory conditions that cause vision disturbances.

In October 2017, the FDA approved a new shingles vaccine called “Shingrix” that is made up of a dead version of the herpes-zoster virus. In January 2018, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended that adults over the age of 50 take this vaccine rather than Zostavax, because it provides stronger protection against the disease.

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