Zostavax Vaccine Lawsuit

The Zostavax vaccine lawsuits were jumping with energy. Lawyers wanted these cases which is why you saw television commercials and Facebook and Google ads (and, yes, legal blog posts) from attorneys hustling to sign up victims.

These Zostavax lawsuits alleged that the plaintiffs experienced severe complications, most notably shingles, from being administered it.

Today, these lawsuits are on life support, as we explain below. We have not rewritten this entire post still has some 2021 excitement in it. But these cases are likely to fall apart, and we explain this below.

Georgia woman gets bronchitis from Zostavax

Filed in the U.S. District for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, a Georgia woman was injected with Zostavax around December 2016. Shortly after, she developed acute bronchitis, sudden hearing loss in her left ear, and a skin rash. The lawsuit alleges that the plaintiff experienced mental and emotional distress as a result of Zostavax’s side effects. It also alleges that the plaintiff suffered serious injuries that are permanent and incurable.

The lawsuit also alleges that Merck acted negligently in reasonably designing, researching, and manufacturing Zostavax. It claims that the live virus used in Zostavax was not weakened enough to prevent it from being reactivated. Instead, the live virus might combine with the old virus found in some people. This may result in a potent strain of the shingles. It can also lead to other complications, such as the ones referenced in this specific lawsuit. This recent lawsuit highlights the need for more understanding of how to prevent Zostavax’s more severe side effects from happening.


Zostavax is a vaccine that is intended to prevent you from getting herpes zoster, more commonly known as the shingles. It is a weakened live version of the virus, which helps train the immune system to fight it off. Zostavax is recommended for individuals over 50. The pharmaceutical company Merck & Company develops and manufactures it. Zostavax was FDA approved in 2006. It is a stronger version of Merck’s other chickenpox vaccine, Varivax.

Zostavax’s side effects

Zostavax’s side effects include redness, soreness, or swelling around the place of administration. You may receive a rash similar to chickenpox. Some individuals may also experience headaches.

Some people may also experience allergic reactions from Zostavax. Allergic reactions include hives, face or throat swelling, difficulty breathing, increased heart rate, dizziness, and fatigue. Reactions can happen between a few minutes to a few hours upon administration. If you have any allergic reactions to Zostavax, contact your medical professional and consider alternatives such as Shingrix.

Centralization in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania

Around August 2018, Merck moved to centralize lawsuits filed against them pertaining to Zostavax in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. The Multidistrict Litigation panel felt that the Zostavax-related lawsuits filed against Merck had common questions of fact. They also felt that centralization would be convenient for both parties.

The panel concluded that the Eastern District of Pennsylvania is an appropriate district to centralize Zostavax-related lawsuits. They chose it because seven pending lawsuits have been filed there. These lawsuits were also the earliest filed ones. Merck facilities that developed and manufactured Zostavax were located in Pennsylvania as well.

Lawsuits filed in other states

Lawsuits have been filed in New Jersey and Wisconsin against Merck,  both of which allege that the plaintiffs received after being administered with Zostavax. The New Jersey-based lawsuit was filed in July 2017, while the Wisconsin one was filed almost a year later around May 2018. Both lawsuits allege that Merck failed to properly find the balance between a virus too weak to help someone develop immunities and a virus too strong to prevent the very disease the vaccine was made for.

Around October 2018, a lawsuit was filed against Merck in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico. However, unlike the New Jersey and Wisconsin lawsuits, this lawsuit does not allege that the plaintiff received the shingles from taking Zostavax. Instead, the plaintiff, in this case, alleges that they received Bell’s palsy, which causes facial paralysis. The person received the Zostavax injection around October 2015 at a Wal-Mart. Shortly after taking the administered.

Shingrix as an alternative

Shingrix is a great alternative for those experiencing adverse effects from Zostavax. Unlike Zostavax, Shinrgrix comprises dead viruses. This makes it safer for individuals with weaker immune systems. It is also more effective than Zostavax for people over 70.

However, Shingrix continues to have side effects. They include soreness, redness, swelling, muscle pain, headaches, stomachaches, or nausea. One can also get allergic reactions. Nonetheless, Shingrix’s side effects are less severe than Zostavax’s.  What should you do?  The answer is never ask a lawyer.  Talk to your doctor about what is the best path for you given all the variables at play.  This is an important point to underscore.  Few people are arguing for a Zostavax recall.  Instead, they are asking for a warning so that patients and doctors can make the best choice.

Zostavax Lawsuits Dismissed

In December 2022, a federal judge in Pennsylvania dismissed all of the cases in the lawsuit in which the plaintiffs alleged that the vaccine caused a more severe form of shingles or shingles-related injuries. The judge found that the plaintiffs had not presented adequate medical and scientific evidence to support their claims. This decision is now on appeal.

Other Zostavax Lawsuits Not Going Well

In October 2023, plaintiffs lost another case, this one involving a patient whodeveloped Guillain-Barré syndrome, a rare autoimmune disorder, shortly after receiving the Zostavax vaccine.

The judge found that while the plaintiffs’ experts based their opinions on epidemiological studies, there was also scientific evidence contradicting their claims. The court also complained that one expert relied on case reports and adverse event reports, which we all have to admit are generally seen as unreliable for proving causation without additional supporting evidence.

This litigation has truthfully been loss and loss. In March 2023, plaintiff alleging that the vaccine caused the plaintiff’s “peripheral neuropathy,” was dismissed on the basis of causation under the learned intermediary rule. The treating doctor just did not buy into the warning case which creates a real causation problem if the doctor would have prescribed it anyway.


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