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Zostavax (zoster live vaccine) is a vaccine to help prevent shingles. It was the only vaccine on the marketing until 2017. However, for ten years, 36,000 people reported autoimmune and infectious diseases after receiving the vaccine.

About Zostavax

ZostavaxLogo 300x96Zostavax vaccinates against shingles. Shingles are the same virus that causes chickenpox. Whereas chickenpox affects the younger population, shingles occur in those over 60.  Approved by the FDA in 2006, it was the only shingles vaccine until 2017 when Shingrix came on the market. Zostavax works by a doctor injecting a patient with a weak, living form of the varicella-zoster virus. The varicella-zoster virus causes chickenpox and shingles. This vaccine has 17x more live varicella zoster virus in it than the chickenpox vaccine.

Merck manufactures the live virus in fetal lung cells, which can end up in the vaccine causing serious side effects.

Zostavax Side Effects

Over 36 million people aged 50 and older received this vaccine. As of March 2018, the FDA had received 102,962 reports of Zostavax side effects. These include 128 deaths, according to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS).

The side effects can happen within six months of injection. They are usually either an infectious disease or an autoimmune response from the vaccine.

Zostavax Infectious Diseases

The common infectious diseases linked to Zostavax are:

  • Shingles
  • Post Herpetic Neuralgia
  • EncephalitisPostherpetic Neuralgia 300x200
  • Meningitis
  • Facial paralysis
  • Loss of hearing (Ramsay Hunt)
  • Balance problems
  • Cranial Nerve Palsies
  • Acute cardiovascular events
  • Heart attack
  • Hemorrhagic stroke
  • Cardiac issues
  • Exacerbation of CHF
  • Cardiomyopathy
  • Vision problems (loss, infection, retinal damage)

Zostavax Autoimmune Diseases

The common autoimmune diseases linked to Zostavax are:

  • LupusLupus Rash 300x200
  • Guillain-Barre Syndrome
  • Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis
  • Traverse Myelitis
  • Meningitis
  • Facial paralysis (Bell’s Palsy)
  • Hemorrhagic stroke
  • Optic neuritis
  •  Vasculitis
  • Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy (CIDP)

Side effects of Zostavax may happen in minutes or months. Some last a few days or the rest of his or her life. A woman in a 2011 study suffered vision loss after six days. Another developed a rash and fever within a few days and then, lost his vision two months later.

Merck Knew The Dangers

When the FDA first approved Zostavax in 2006, it was just for individuals 60 years and older. The agency told Merck to conduct post-market studies since the original ones stopped looking at safety data after only 42 days. The individuals in the study were 95% Caucasian purposely since other races are more susceptible to shingles. Plus, the efficacy rates were very low at 60% at best. Then, 17% effective at worst. Additionally, the older the individual getting the vaccine, then the lower the efficacy.

Plus, the FDA and CDC had concerns about the strength of the live virus in the vaccine. It was so strong that in 2018, the CDC added a shingles vaccine info sheet to be placed with the label. However, since many individuals received Zostavax at a pharmacy, they never saw the warnings.

Merck developed a non-live vaccine (like Shingrix) in the 1990s, which is safer. The company never used it since it was cheaper to manufacturer the live virus.

Zostavax vs Shingrix

In 2017, Shingrix hit the market as another shingles vaccine option. When the CDC recommended Shingrix over Zostavax, it killed Zostavax’s dominance on the market. However, the damages to thousands of people was already done.



Manufacturer Merck GlaxoSmithKline
FDA Approval Date 2006 2017
Average Cost $200 per shot $280 per shot
Dose 1 shot 2 shots over two to six months
Effectiveness 51% in adults 60 to 69, significant
decrease in adults 70 and over
97% in adults 50 to 69 years,
91% in people 70 and over
Better Ingredients For Efficacy No Yes
Weak Immune System Safe No Yes
Vaccine Type Made with weakened live virus Made with non-live virus DNA
Storage Refrigerated No refrigeration required
Recommended Starting Age 60 50

Zostavax Lawsuits

Many people are filing against the manufacturer, Merck. Injured people say the live virus in Zostavax led to developing autoimmune and infectious diseases from vision loss to death. Even one man lost his ability to walk while another lost her right eye.

Therefore in August 2018, the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation ordered several Zostavax lawsuits consolidated in Pennsylvania under multidistrict litigation (MDL) 2848. This is to help speed up the litigation process as the number of cases grows.

We Want to Help Zostavax Victims

It is your right to be informed about the long-term risks associated with the medications you take, and it is the responsibility of drug companies to provide this information. If you or a loved one has developed uncontrollable bleeding after taking Zostavax, you should demand accountability.

We want to help send a message that this is not acceptable. Also, we are advocates for consumers who have been harmed by dangerous products, and we have the experience necessary to successfully litigate these cases.

Contact the Michael Brady Lynch Firm today for a free consultation to learn more about seeking justice. Compensation may be available for any medical expenses associated with this ordeal, as well as for your physical and emotional suffering. There is no obligation.

How We Can Help

When you experience side effects from a dangerous drug, it can have devastating effects on your entire life. Compensation for injuries and damages could be available.

The recoverable losses include:

  • Past and future medical expenses
  • Lost wages
  • Loss of an ability to work; and
  • Pain and sufferingEliquis Help 300x130

If a person dies from complications from a drug, family members may be able to recover damages for the wrongful death of their loved one, including:

  • Funeral expenses
  • Medical expenses prior to death
  • Loss of economic support; and
  • Loss of companionship

If the conduct of a drug company in manufacturing and selling drug is found to be highly reckless, punitive damages may be awarded to punish the company and deter similar conduct in the future. Therefore, if you developed an infectious or autoimmune disease after taking Zostavax, please speak to us to learn more about your rights.

Learn More

Zostavax MDL Forms

Zostavax Claims Not Subject to Vaccine Court

Zostavax Causes Autoimmune Disorders

Despite Dangers No Zostavax Recall

Infectious Diseases Tied to Zostavax

Zostavax MDL Forms

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