Television viewers and magazine readers are constantly being bombarded with pharmaceutical advertising. Among the most recent and notable of these are ads for a shingles vaccine called Zostavax manufactured by drug giant Merck. The company’s initial ads were humorous, featuring sports notable Terry Bradshaw talking about his own experience with shingles, but these have been replaced with more ominous voiceovers warning of the danger that is “lurking within”. Now those who have acted on the ads and requested the vaccine from their physicians are facing other dangers: a vaccine injury that is only partially effective and is causing serious eye complications.
Generally speaking, when a vaccine injury occurs there is a process in place for providing compensation to victims: claims are filed with the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) which is administered by the Department of Health and Human Services. The VICP covers injuries caused by a variety of vaccines, including the immunizations for influenza, for Gardasil, for hepatitis A and hepatitis B, and for polio. Those who are injured by these and other registered vaccines may be entitled to compensation for their medical expenses, lost wages, their pain and suffering and their legal fees. This process must be pursued prior to any other direct litigation against the drug manufacturer being pursued. But when a vaccine is not registered and causes an injury, its victims are permitted to pursue direct litigation, and more and more victims are beginning to come forward.
Shingles is caused by the varicella zoster virus which causes chickenpox. After a person has had this common childhood illness, the virus remains dormant in the body where it can become active again when the immune system is weakened. The Zostavax shingles vaccine contains live varicella virus. It has been available to U.S. consumers since 2006 when it was approved by the U.S Food & Drug Administration for those who were age 60 and above. Five years later in 2011 its approval expanded to include those between the ages of 50 and 59.
The vaccine’s use has been somewhat controversial. Studies show that it only cuts the risk of shingles by 51%, while presenting a risk of actually causing the disease it is meant to prevent. Additionally, just last year Merck modified the vaccine’s labeling to report that there is a risk of necrotizing retinitis in patients who are undergoing immunosuppressive therapy, and there have been many adverse events reported by those who have received the vaccine. The vaccine injury lawsuits that have been filed against Merck have included claims of the vaccine leading to high blood pressure, eye injuries and other viral infections leading to conditions of the central nervous system, despite the fact that the only warnings on the medication’s documentation citing the possibility of rash and itching at the injection site.
Vaccine injuries can have life-changing results. The VICP program provides a path to justice for those who are harmed by registered vaccines, but when injuries are sustained following immunization with vaccines that are not registered in the program, victims are able to pursue a lawsuit seeking compensation for the injuries that they have suffered. Whether you’ve been harmed by a VICP-registered vaccine or one that is not on the approved list, your best first step is to contact an experienced vaccine injury attorney. The law firm of Shebell & Shebell represents vaccine injury victims. Contact us today to learn how we can help.