Is Zostavax safe?

Zostavax Single Dose Shingles VaccineYou need to prevent shingles, but you also need the vaccine that you take to prevent shingles to be safe. Zostavax has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for more than a decade. However, lawsuits have been filed against Merck, the make of Zostavax, alleging that Zostavax is ineffective at preventing shingles and that the vaccine may cause shingles.

Zostavax FDA Approval

In 2006, Zostavax was approved by the FDA as a shingles vaccine. Zostavax contains the live chickenpox virus that causes both chickenpox and shingles. It is a one-shot vaccine that may be available at doctors’ offices and pharmacies, but it is not the preferred shingles vaccine.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Shingrix is the preferred shingles vaccine even though it is a two-shot vaccine rather than a one-shot vaccine. While there is a preference for Shingrix, Zostavax may still be used for healthy patients who are 50 or older if:

  • A person is allergic to Shingrix
  • A person requests Zostavax
  • Shingrix is unavailable, and the person needs or requests an immediate shingles vaccination

A Zostavax vaccine is supposed to prevent shingles for about five years.

Shingles Risk After a Zostavax Vaccine

While Zostavax may be given to people who are at least 50 years old, it is recommended for patients aged 60 years and older. According to the CDC, the vaccine is most effective in people age 60-69, but it also provides some protection from shingles for people who are 70 or older.

Overall, Zostavax is only about 51% effective at preventing shingles and 67% effective at preventing a shingles complication known as post-herpetic neuralgia. Additionally, people may be at risk of developing shingles from this live-virus vaccine.

Shingles Is a Serious Health Risk

It is recommended that every adult age 60 or older receive a shingles vaccine to prevent the pain of a shingles infection and the possibility of serious medical complications.

The CDC estimates that more than 99% of Americans over age 40 have had chickenpox. Shingles develops from the same virus as chickenpox. Thus, even if you don’t remember having chickenpox, it is important to assume that you did have this illness as a child and that the virus is still in your body. After being dormant for many years, the virus can come back as shingles.

Shingles shows up as a painful rash that is often along one side of your torso or your face. Some people also experience fever, headache, and fatigue. The pain may continue long after the rash clears up in a condition known as post-herpetic neuralgia. Shingles can also result in other complications such as blindness if it occurs near the eye, neurological problems if certain nerves are affected, and skin infections if the rash blisters aren’t treated.

Zostavax Lawsuits

People around the country are currently filing lawsuits claiming that they developed shingles after receiving the Zostavax vaccine. Specifically, people who have been hurt are alleging that:

  • Zostavax can result in serious injury
  • Merck knew that Zostavax could cause shingles during its premarket studies but did not add shingles as a potential side effect on the vaccine’s label for many years
  • Recipients of the vaccine were not adequately warned of Zostavax risks

If you were diagnosed with shingles within one year of receiving the Zostavax vaccination, then it is important to find out more about your rights. You could have a potential case against Merck, but your time to file a lawsuit is limited by law.

Keefe Disability Law is currently evaluating Zostavax cases. If you experienced shingles after getting the Zostavax vaccine or if your loved one died from shingles complications after receiving the Zostavax vaccine, then we encourage you to contact us for a free case evaluation. Other people in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, or New Hampshire may have suffered similar injuries and we may be able to help you. Your time to pursue an injury case is limited. Call us or start a live chat with us today to learn more.

 

John L. Keefe
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Founding Attorney, Massachusetts Social Security Disability Lawyer