by Dr. Kiran Khanzada

Zostavax Lawsuits: Shingles, Chickenpox and Vision Loss

Commonly asked questions about Zostavax:

What is Zostavax?

Zostavax is a vaccine manufactured by Merck that is used to treat the herpes zoster virus, or shingles. The vaccine is meant only for patients 50 years and older, the age when the virus is more common.

Zostavax is administered as a single dose by injection. The vaccine uses a weakened form of the shingles virus, which works to activate the immune system. Once the body is able to fight off this version of the virus, it builds immunity and can then theoretically fight off full-fledged herpes zoster.

If successful, the vaccine will last for about six years. Some studies have reported that Zostavax only works in 50 percent of patients.

What are the Serious Side Effects of Zostavax?

Zostavax has been found to cause several serious side effects, leading injured patients to file lawsuits against Merck — and its parent company, Bayer — for failing to properly warn about potential complications.


Zostavax is meant to prevent shingles, but many patients actually contracted the virus after receiving the vaccine.

Shingles is caused when a dormant chickenpox virus sits in the body’s nervous system for years and eventually develops into shingles. Symptoms typically consist of painful blisters on one side of the torso.

Zostavax works by injecting a weakened form of the shingles virus into the body in order to trigger an immune response, but for some patients, even the weakened form of the virus is too strong. Patients who are immunocompromised cannot fight off the virus in the vaccine, and thereby develop shingles.

Zostavax lawsuits claim that Merck knew the drug could cause shingles but did not list it as a side effect until 2014, eight years after Zostavax was first approved by the FDA in 2006.


In much the same way as Zostavax can cause shingles, it can also lead to chickenpox.

If the immune system is not strong enough to fight off the shingles virus in the vaccine, it can develop into chickenpox. Varicella, or chickenpox, is a viral infection that causes an itchy rash of small blisters.

The chickenpox virus is typically contracted by young children, but in the case of Zostavax users, all patients are over the age of 50. The virus can be a lot more damaging to older patients.

Vision Loss

If a patient does contract shingles from Zostavax, the virus can attack the eyes and cause severe inflammation and scarring of the eye tissue.

As a result, necrotising retinitis, or retinal damage, can occur and lead to permanent vision loss or even blindness.

What are Other Complications of Zostavax?

  • Hearing Loss: Shingles patients can develop the shingles rash on their face or around their ears, and the inflammation can cause persistent hearing loss or even deafness.
  • Brain Damage: Shingles can cause inflammation in the brain, or encephalitis, which can lead to serious neurological disorders. Symptoms can include paralysis, stroke, and problems with hearing or balance.
  • Postherpetic Neuralgia (PHN): This occurs when shingles damages nerve fibers in the skin, causing a lifelong disability of extreme chronic pain. About 1 in 5 people who contract shingles develop PHN.
  • Myelitis: If the shingles infection reaches the spine, it can cause spinal cord inflammation, or myelitis. This is one of the most serious complications of the virus, as it can result in permanent paralysis, numbness, pain and tingling sensations, and incontinence.
  • Bell’s Palsy: If the shingles virus spreads on our near the face, it can cause inflammation of the nerves that control the facial muscles, leading to facial paralysis, or Bell’s Palsy. Symptoms include drooping facial features, jaw pain, drooling, change in the ability to taste, and change in the tear ducts.

Other side effects of Zostavax include:

  • Stroke
  • Cardiovascular event
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Pneumonia
  • Vasculitis
  • Autoimmune disorders (such as Guillain-Barre Syndrome, Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy, Meniere’s Disease, and others)
  • Herpetic Neuralgia
  • Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis (ADEM)
  • Meningitis
  • Hives
  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Join pain
  • Muscle pain
  • Death

Have Zostavax Lawsuits Been Filed?

Zostavax lawsuits have been filed against Merck in both federal and state courts alleging that the vaccine causes serious side effects about which the company failed to warn patients.

The first lawsuit was filed in February 2017 in a Philadelphia court by a woman who claimed that she suffered headaches, dizziness, and blurred vision after receiving Zostavax. Long-term, she continued to experience vision problems, high blood pressure, dizziness, and headaches.

The lawsuit claims that due to numerous reports made to the FDA about the vaccine’s adverse side effects, Merck knew about the complications and failed to provide warning to both patients and medical providers.

Merck has faced litigation before over the efficacy of one of its vaccines. The company is still fighting another lawsuit over its mumps, measles and rubella (MMR) vaccine, which former employees say was not as effective as the company presented it to be.

In 2010, two former Merck scientists accused the company of tampering with clinical test results to maintain sales of the MMR vaccine. Allegedly, in the late 1990s, the vaccine fell below the 95 percent efficiency level required to sell the vaccine. Instead of pulling the medication or improving it, the two whistleblowers claim they were asked to help alter the clinical trial results.

The two scientists speculate that the fraudulent results could have contributed to the mumps outbreaks in 2006 and 2009, as they believe children were receiving weaker vaccinations.

Can I File a Zostavax Lawsuit?

Our dangerous drug attorneys can help if you or someone you care about was harmed by Zostavax.

Lawsuits have already been filed against Merck by both patients and their families seeking compensation for serious injury caused by this dangerous drug. You may be entitled to a settlement.

We do not charge any legal fees unless you receive a settlement, and we pay all of the case costs. We will help you file your lawsuit and keep you updated every step of the way.

Find a Zostavax Lawyer

Drug companies have highly paid, high-powered lawyers on their side. You need to match them with lawyers who have the skills, knowledge, and resources to fight them every step of the way.

Our Zostavax lawyers have formed a highly sophisticated legal team to win your case. We have years of experience litigating against pharmaceutical companies on behalf of plaintiffs like you, and therefore, we know how to build the strongest possible defense and win you the maximum settlement.

The lawyers on our team have won numerous national awards, including:

  • Best Personal Injury Lawyer (American Lawyer Academy)
  • Top 100 Trial Lawyers (National Trial Lawyers Association)
  • Martindale-Hubbell AV Rating (Top rating for Ability & Integrity)
  • SuperLawyers
  • AVVO Perfect “10” Rating

When you choose us, we will handle the entire process from start to finish, keeping you informed along the way. Our staff will:

  • Pay all cases costs and expenses ourselves
  • Get your medical records & pharmacy records
  • Get your medical bills
  • Submit all required claim forms
  • Recommend to you if you should join a class action or file your own case
  • File the lawsuit for you
  • Keep you regularly updated on important events
  • Get you the best possible settlement for your case

Our No-Fee Promise on Zostavax Cases

You can afford to have our great team of lawyers on your side. When you choose us, it literally costs nothing to get started. If your claim is not successful for any reason, you do not owe us anything.

We promise you in writing:

  • No money to get started
  • We pay all case costs and expenses
  • No legal fees whatsoever unless you receive a settlement
  • Phone calls are always free.

How Do I Start a Zostavax Claim?

Our drug lawyers will help you file your lawsuit. To get started, you can:

  1. Submit the Free Case Review Box on this page, or
  2. Call (866) 280-4722 any time of day to tell us about your case.

We will listen to your story and answer your questions. If you have claim, we will start immediately.

WARNING: There are strict time deadlines for filing drug lawsuit claims.

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