Zostavax Vaccine Side Effects May Cause Shingles Virus, Rather Than Prevent It

Austin Kirk

By Austin Kirk
Posted October 1, 2018


Side effects of Merck’s herpes zoster vaccine, known as Zostavax, may cause some patients to suffer recurring and severe shingles outbreaks, rather than preventing the infection. As a result of the failure to warn about this potential risk, Zostavax vaccine lawsuits are being reviewed by the lawyers at Saiontz & Kirk, P.A.

Zostavax vaccines are approved for the prevention of shingles among individuals over the age of 50. While the injection is supposed to contain a weakened state of the live virus, which is designed to only initiate the development of antibodies by the immune system, studies have confirmed that the live virus used was not weakened enough, and can reactivate years later.

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Saiontz & Kirk, PA, Attorneys & Lawyers, Baltimore, MD

This may result in painful and debilitating cases of shingles. In addition to the normal side effects of shingles, which may result in painful rash and blisters, these outbreaks may result in a number of other symptoms, including:

  • Postherpetic Neuralgia
  • Scarring
  • Bacterial Superinfection
  • Allodynia
  • Cranial and Motor Palsies
  • Pneumonia
  • Encephalitis
  • Vision Loss
  • Hearing Loss
  • Death

Zostavax was developed with the use of a live varicella zoster virus (VZV), which is the same thing it uses in its chickenpox vaccine, Varivax. However, while Varivax contains a minimum of 1,350 plaque-forming units (PFUs), Zostavax contains a minimum of 19,400 PFUs.

According to findings of research published in the medical journal Nature Medicine six years before Zostavax was approved, researchers warned that if VZV is under-attenuated, meaning not weakened enough, it can reactivate later. In fact, shingles is actually what happens when dormant VZV reactivates naturally in the human body, meaning it can lie dormant for decades.

On top of the potential Zostavax risks due to an under-attenuated virus in Merck’s injections, clinical evaluations have found that Zostavax vaccine recipients are often injected with levels far, far higher than the minimum amounts of PFUs. In fact, more than 90% of those who get the Zostavax vaccine actually received about 32,300 PFUs.

Merck conducted two different studies, a Shingles Prevention Study in 2005, and a follow-up study in 2008, claiming it found no risk linked to the Zostavax vaccine. However, in 2015, an evaluation of the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System found 1,111 serious adverse event reports linked to Zostavax, including 36 deaths. Three years later, in February of this year, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention added new warnings to the Zostavax vaccine, indicating that it could be linked to rashes and shingles outbreaks.

Zostavax Lawyers Provide Free Case Evaluations

The product liability lawyers at Saiontz & Kirk, P.A. are reviewing potential lawsuits for individuals who have experienced shingles problems that may be the result of Zostavax vaccine side effects. These outbreaks can be persistent, painful, and may be accompanied by other debilitating health issues.

It appears that Merck either failed to adequately study the vaccine, or may have misrepresented the safety and effectiveness of it to the public and federal regulators.

As a result, financial compensation may be available through a Zostavax side effects lawsuit. All cases are handled on a contingency fee basis, meaning there are never out-of-pocket expenses and no fees unless a recovery is obtained.


18 Comments • Add Your Comments

  • Vicki says:

    I had not heard about this and almost got the vaccine, but Walgreen’s was out. I guess I will take my chances without it, instead of enriching big Pharma on more side effects.

    Posted on October 8, 2018 at 3:24 pm

  • Cynthia says:

    I had the Shingles Shot back in 2017!!!! I’m just now finding out of all the bad side effects. What can I do now? I’m scared and upset!!!

    Posted on November 3, 2018 at 1:23 pm

  • Linda says:

    Just got second shot. Never read about a problem. Heard 1st vacine was only 50% effective so I didn’t get it. This new one is suppose to be very effective. Would have not got it if I read this earlier. So far no problem just a very sore arm.

    Posted on November 6, 2018 at 1:26 pm

  • Elizabeth says:

    I’ve had 1 Zoster shot already. Now I’m. Scared to get the 2nd shot later on next month. What can I do?

    Posted on November 11, 2018 at 6:50 pm

  • Jo says:

    Not only did I have shingles after the vaccine in 2008 but I’ve now have psoriasis and MS. At times I’ve been so sick I could not function normally such as bathroom issues, vision, mental issues and being sick all of the time cost me a marriage and severe financial losses. My ex husband would say because he could not see something on the outside he felt I had become a drug seeker. At times the pain was so severe I had to go to the ER for morphine injections. I developed blisters under my breasts and spent 5 days in the hospital. All of this is documented my physicians in Lubbock, TX and the Denver, CO area.

    Posted on November 15, 2018 at 9:55 pm

  • Mary Louise says:

    I am a nurse . I got the vaccine so I would not compromise my elderly parents. However the next day I experienced severe pain and itching, sort of an “on fire feeling” that would not stop. The following day just got worse with rashes starting and pain increasing. This lasted for more than a month curtailing my daily living activities and ability to visit or care for my parents . I was not forwarned of this possibility..

    Posted on November 18, 2018 at 4:33 pm

  • Norma says:

    Yes! This is exactly what happened to me. Now I’m on meds for the rest of my life!

    Posted on November 29, 2018 at 8:45 am

  • PETER says:

    I worked at a hospital in Royal Park Michigan ,where they forced me to take the shot before I ever knew anything going on with the shot. in 20 16 0r 17 I came down with the shingles.Can i sue the hospital for making me take the shot??.
    I really didn`t want to take it. I was told I had to take it or lose my job, so I tookit.

    Posted on November 30, 2018 at 10:23 pm

  • Fausto says:

    I have the vaccine 4 months ago now I can not walk very good my knees hurt so much. And I afraid to take the second shot

    Posted on December 7, 2018 at 11:29 pm

  • MeShiel says:

    WOW had I been forewarned about this there is no way I would have gotten this shot. I had the Shingles the very first time last year, it was bad but then I saw pictures of people having it and those blisters and sores looks awful and painful. I had Just 3 little bumps on the left side of my breast they never blistered up, they were so painful I couldn’t wear a bra or shirt it was that painful. And my left side stayed numb for a long time. So finally it was over so this year in August I got another breakout this time 3 bumps that did crust over very painful at the bottom of my spine at my butt crack. So sore but no numbness and it went away kinda fast. Then in September I went to Albertsons grocery store and the pharmacy had a huge sign staying get your Shingles vaccines here this will prevent you from getting Shingles!!! So I thought wow i better Get this now I do not want to have that pain again!!! Ok so I got the 1st shot and suspose to get the second shot in January but hell no… Got the shot in September then on November 14 i woke Up with the most excruciating pains on my left lower back side where my kidneys are all I could think of was I must be trying to pass kidney stones never ever had them before but that’s what I was thinking i was On the floor crying I couldn’t move the pain only got worse and my 13 year old was crying trying to help me my mother also then I had to go pee bad I managed to slide myself to the bathroom and got up there and I did pee thinking i was going to pass a stone but nothing I dranked so much water and it kinda eased up, then I noticed that my left leg was numb then those pains moved down my leg swelling sore hot to the touch sharp stabbing prickly pains!!!! So my mom called the ambulance and they took me to the hospital San Antonio in Upland, I didn’t think of the Shingles because no rash or bumps. I told them about the excruciating pains and that my kidneys hurt so they did a cat scan came back that my kidneys are fine I must have sprung a back muscle. Sent me home, still in excruciating stabbing nerve pains, so I went to a different hospital emergency room they checked for blood clots in my legs and lungs. All clear, so 22 days later still in excruciating stabbing pains and left thigh is numb!!!! Then i remembered the medication I had for The Shingles since i began To think this is what it is. So I took that medication and it helps with the pain so I finally got in to see my primary doctor she said yes it’s Shingles but the rash is on the inside!!! Now I’m worried what damage has it done to my kidneys!!!! So now I have to wait to see a neurologist to see what damage I have my Thigh is still numb pains and I’m just exhausted. I feel had I not gotten that Shingles vaccine this wouldn’t have happened to me!!!! This is the most horrible disease anyone could have and to now know that by having that shot made it worse even brought it on!!!

    Posted on December 12, 2018 at 1:52 pm

  • Pamela says:

    Had a shingles shot..within in 2 years …I had shingles, I was told by the Pharmacy…I NEEDED ANOTHER SHOT!!! I Am now blurred all the time and other problems..Do not feel the same…

    Posted on December 12, 2018 at 6:02 pm

  • Kay says:

    I have had the first shot on Oct 1,2018 , was told to take the 2nd shot in 2-3 months, after reading about the danger of the shots, should I take the 2nd One?
    Who do I contact for an answer to my question?

    Posted on December 15, 2018 at 3:54 pm

  • Sue says:

    Got the vaccine Oct 4, been sick for 2 months…muscle weakness, couldn’t sit up long enough to drink cup coffee, legs weak, couldn’t walk dog, had to rehoming him. Got URI two weeks after, on be dress 3 weeks. Had first vaccine at age 65 had shingles last year so got first dose of new vaccine, will not get second dose.

    Posted on December 20, 2018 at 11:50 am

  • VALERIE says:

    Got a rash and I seem to fall ALOT

    Posted on December 20, 2018 at 11:00 pm

  • Leanne says:

    To those of you who have had the first of two injections for Shingles please know that the vaccine you are getting is NOT Zostavax! It is the new formula called Shingrix. While the Zostavax is in fact a “live virus” vaccine, Shingrix is not! It is important to know the difference. My mom has had 2 episodes of Shingles since she received her Zostavax vaccination, leaving her in excruciating pain down her left leg. Walking is extremely difficult for her now and she needs to use a cane for support inasmuch as she is 83 and fears falling. My research was extensive in that I too was advised by my Primary Care Physician to be vaccinated. I searched reports starting with the Mayo Clinic, Johns Hopkins University and various medical publications. As with ANY medication, there stands the risk for potentially serious side effects. My advice to you all is to discuss your concerns with your Doctor. Write down your questions prior to your appointment so that you do not miss any issues that you may have concerns about. I have a genetic auto immune disorder and I have in fact had my first of 2 injections for Shingrix. Other than a mild sore arm, I tolerated it very well. The most common side effect of the Shingrix vaccine is of course the sore arm. This because the solution being injected must be extremely cold. The other common side effect is that of flu like symptoms which will pass in 3 to 4 days. After reading the comments from those of you who have had the first of 2 injections and have experienced some serious side effects, you should report this to your Doctor and ask if they can assist you with the reporting process to the FDA and CDC. Sooner rather than later so that we as patients can assist the medical community in getting ahead of the problem. Had more patients known that there was a way to report this very serious issue with the Zostavax vaccine early on, so many people would not have been at risk. Thank you for allowing me to share this with you and remember, you are going to have to be your own advocate in your medical care.

    Posted on December 29, 2018 at 5:20 pm

  • Robert says:

    I had a shingles shot back several years ago at Walgreens. My insurance would not pay so I had to pay. Very expensive.
    I had shingles breakout and my doctor gave me a prescription. The pain stopped after a little more than a year and now periodically I have nerve pains and continue to take my medicine as needed.

    Posted on December 30, 2018 at 9:57 pm

  • Sandy says:

    I have shingles and I burn and do not have the energy to go into the store. I have a balance problem and now a neurological issue. I received the shot and I saw the side affects that occurred after that shot. No doctor can tell me why I am going through the downward spiral of bad health. Now that I have had unexplained low temperatures 94.8 , and unexplained prolapsed symptoms, and numerous other physical problems I will find this shot as the reason the doctor cannot explain my odd illnesses.

    Posted on January 7, 2019 at 2:23 am

  • Elizabeth says:

    I had the shot but now I am scared I am going to get the shingles. I am on the list to receive another shot. They say that it does not have the live virus. Not knowing whether to take it. Is this the FDA’s way of a cover up?

    Posted on January 13, 2019 at 12:44 pm

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