Zostavax is a shingles vaccine that contains a live virus. This virus can cause a life-threatening shingles infections in people with vulnerable immune systems. Zostavax may also cause a Shoulder Injury Related to Vaccine Administration (SIRVA) if the needle is injected improperly in the shoulder.
UPDATE: Merck Stops Selling Zostavax in U.S.
Merck Faces Hundreds of Zostavax Lawsuits
Hundreds of lawsuits have been filed by people who developed shingles and other severe side effects of Zostavax, a vaccine that was supposed to prevent shingles. Click here to read more.
What is Zostavax?
Zostavax® is a shingles vaccine that is manufactured by Merck & Co. It was on the market in the U.S. between 2006 and 2020.
How is Zostavax Given?
Zostavax is given in a 0.65-mL injection with a needle in the upper arm, near the shoulder. It is approved for adults over 60 years old.
Severe Side Effects of Zostavax
- Shoulder Injury Related to Vaccine Administration (SIRVA)
- Serious neurological diseases or disorders, including brain inflammation (encephalitis)
- Herpetic Neuralgia (disorder in the nerves)
- Postherpetic neuralgia, or PHN (pain continuing after shingles blister subside)
- Myelitis (spinal cord inflammation)
- Bell’s Palsy (facial paralysis)
- Vision problems, including: blindness, eye infections, and retinal damage (necrotizing retinitis)
- Hearing loss
Merck & Co. has been hit by hundreds of Zostavax lawsuits from people who developed severe shingles infections from the live virus in the vaccine. Merck is accused of downplaying the risk of shingles infections, and the fact that Zostavax provides “almost no remaining preventative effects after 7 years,” according to data from the CDC.
Zostavax Lawsuit in New Jersey
In July 2017, a group of 18 people who developed shingles from Zostavax filed a lawsuit (PDF) against Merck for failing to warn about the risk.
At least 4 victims were diagnosed with Post-Herpetic Neuralgia (PHN), chronic pain, nerve damage, scarring, and other ongoing symptoms. Click here to read more.
According to the complaint:
“Merck downplayed the serious and dangerous side effects of its product to encourage sales of the product; consequently, Merck placed its profits above its customers’ safety.”
What is the problem?
Zostavax has been sold in the U.S. since 2006, but Merck did not add “shingles” or “chickenpox” to the list of Zostavax side effects until 2014. Zostavax is not recommended for people who are sick because severe infections can be deadly.
Zostavax Can Be Deadly for Sick People
At least 36 deaths and 1,110 serious injuries were linked to Zostavax by 2015. After a sick person died after receiving Zostavax, health officials warned that people with weak immune systems should not receive Zostavax.
Can Zostavax Cause SIRVA?
Yes. Zostavax, like all injection vaccines, may cause a Shoulder Injury Related to Vaccine Administration (SIRVA) if the needle is injected too high or too deep into the shoulder.
Symptoms of SIRVA After Zostavax Vaccine
- Arm pain
- Shoulder pain
- Intense, stabbing pain
- Shoulder dysfunction
- Limited range of motion
- Lack of flexibility
Every year, the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) pays out millions of dollars to hundreds of people who are diagnosed with SIRVA and other severe side effects of vaccines.
Since 2011, around 500 people with shoulder injuries from vaccines were paid over $70 million. The average payout per SIRVA lawsuit is around $140,000, but the maximum payout is $250,000 per person.