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Zostavax Shingles Vaccine – Side Effects & Complications

Zostavax is an immunization or vaccine which is made of a live, weakened or “attenuated” form of the zoster virus which causes shingles and is the same virus that causes chickenpox. It has also caused some people who took the vaccine to contract shingles rather than preventing it and has resulted in serious complications or even death in some cases.

shingles

Zostavax shingles vaccine is only effective about half of the time and has been linked to blindness, paralysis and other serious complications, including death.

Zostavax Shingles Vaccine

Zostavax is an immunization or vaccine which is made of a live, weakened or “attenuated” form of the zoster virus which causes shingles and is the same virus that causes chickenpox. Zostavax is only effective 51% of the time at preventing shingles and 67% effective at preventing post-herpetic neuralgia (PHN). It has also caused some people who took the vaccine to contract shingles rather than preventing it and has resulted in serious complications or even death in some cases.

Manufacturing information

Brand NameZostavax
Generic Namezoster vaccine, live attenuated
Classification Vaccine for Herpes zoster/Varicella zoster
ManufacturerMerck
Uses:Prevention of shingles and post-herpetic neuralgia

How Does Zostavax Work?

Shingles is an infectious disease caused caused by dormant chickenpox virus known as Varicella or Herpes zoster. Once a person has contracted and recovered from chickenpox, the zoster virus can hide in the nervous system to be reactivated in later years.

Most of the time, shingles occurs in older adults who had chickenpox in childhood but can occur in younger people, even teens and children. Shingles occurs as a band or group of blisters on one side of the body, usually the face, torso or other areas.

Zostavax works by injecting a weakened form of the Herpes zoster virus to trigger the immune system to create antibodies against the illness. About half of the people who use Zostavax will be protected from shingles. Unfortunately, others will not be protected and some people will actually develop shingles. Those who have compromised immune systems may be at greater risk for developing shingles or for complications.

Complications or serious side effects of Zostavax have included:

  • Development of shingles
  • Blindness
  • Paralysis
  • Brain damage
  • Liver failure
  • Death

Zostavax Side Effects

Because Zostavax uses an attenuated or weakened virus, it only works to prevent shingles about half of the time and to prevent post-herpetic neuralgia in about two-thirds of people who receive it. Even when Zostavax is effective, immunity is not expected to last more than six years and booster shots will be needed.

Some patients who get Zostavax vaccine, get shingles instead of being protected. Patients who are immunocompromised due to illness or medical treatments are more likely to contract shingles as their immune systems may be unable to fight off, even a weakened form of the virus.

All vaccines cause certain side effects due to activation of the immune system. Most of these symptoms will be manageable and will go away over a short period of time. Other Zostavax side effects may be more severe or result in serious illness.

Common side effects of Zostavax:

  • Pain at injection site
  • Headache
  • Mild fever
  • Joint pain
  • Muscle pain
  • Nausea

Some side effects of Zostavax may result in serious complications or may be life-threatening.

Severe side effects of Zostavax:

  • Shingles
  • Chickenpox
  • Rash, blisters or hives
  • Hearing loss
  • Eye disorders such as necrotizing retinitis
  • Blindness
  • Paralysis
  • Brain damage
  • Liver complications
  • Death

Merck Failed to Warn About Zostavax Complications

Zostavax was first approved in 2006 and was the only possible vaccine for shingles for more than a decade. Merck, manufacturer of Zostavax, knew about the possible lack of efficacy and the potential for people to contract shingles rather than being protected by it but failed to include this information on prescribing labels. The failure of vaccines to protect some people likely increases the risk for serious complications, blindness and death.

The information about infection risk was finally added in 2014 but many people had already been harmed by the vaccine. In 2017, a new shingles vaccine Shingrix was introduced. Shingrix is a different type of vaccine and does not appear to cause shingles as it is not a “live” virus.

Merck Zostavax Lawsuits

Merck is facing a number of Zostavax lawsuits claiming that the company knew of the potential for infections and that they failed to warn medical professionals and the public about the possible risks.

Zostavax lawsuits are not the only challenges threatening Zostavax’s manufacturer. Merck is one of the largest vaccine manufactures in the world and faces lawsuits for a number of vaccines, in addition to Zostavax, due to injuries and improper or illegal conduct in their vaccine division.

People or loved ones of those who have experienced complications such as blindness, paralysis or death after receiving the Zostavax shingles vaccine should seek legal assistance.

Notwithstanding claims relating to this product, the drug/medical device remains approved by the U.S. FDA.

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