Recently, the Big Pharma powerhouse, Merck & Co. has found itself in hot water with a growing number of lawsuits alleging that their vaccine does anything but protect them.
A complaint filed in Pennsylvania alleges that Merck failed to warn citizens about the potential risks and dangers associated with Zostavax® (zoster vaccine live), a vaccine which prevents shingles (herpes zoster).
Last year, Merck made $749 Million on Zostavax, so it’s undeniable that the vaccine has been good for the company’s bottom line. For some patients, however, taking Zostavax has come with awful consequences. Some of the reported adverse side-effects include people going blind in 1 eye, suffering from inflammation of the brain, and even contracting shingles.
Zostavax is meant solely to protect people from shingles. And yet, people who receive this vaccine could very well wind up with a wide range of side effects, not the least of which includes the painful rash and fluid-filled blisters they are trying to protect themselves from.
What Is Shingles?
Anyone, at any age, who has had chicken pox is at risk for developing shingles. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), people over 60 years of age should get vaccinated even if they don’t remember having the chicken pox. This is because 99 percent of Americans over 40 have had chicken pox, even if they don’t remember.
If someone contracts shingles, there are a number of painful and sometimes hideous symptoms they can expect. Along with a painful rash which can develop into large, fluid-filled blisters, people may also experience headaches, fever, sensitivity to light, and fatigue. If this rash gets close to the eye, it can cause permanent damage. For older folks or people with a weakened immune system, untreated shingles can lead to serious complications.
What Zostavax Supposed to Do
Zostavax is a single-dose injection that you can get from your doctor or at a clinic. In studies cited by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), researchers found that, overall, the vaccine reduced the occurrence of shingles by about 50 percent. They also found that, as a person gets older, the vaccine is less effective. An injection of Zostavax will protect someone for about 5 years.
Protecting oneself from this condition is clearly ideal. With so many millions of people likely to take it, everyone needs to be sure that a vaccination does what it is designed to do. And that is the problem with Zostavax.
What Merck Didn’t Tell Consumers
A number adverse reactions have been reported by people who have taken the vaccine. Some result in discomfort, but other reports associate the vaccine with occurrences of viral infection, disease of the central nervous system, and brain-swelling (encephalomyelitis). In short, there are some severe side-effects that people thinking about using Zostavax ought to know about.
The suit alleges that Merck knew about these side-effects, that shingles itself was one of these side-effects, and that the company did not adequately warn people. Instead, they say, Merck promised more than its own research could support.
The False Promise
An express warranty is the guarantee a company makes about its product. This is the information a consumer relies on when making a decision about whether or not to use a product. When that product is a widely-used vaccine, it raises the stakes tremendously.
According to one lawsuit, the Merck knew or should have known that Zostavax did not conform to the express warranties included with the drug. That is unacceptable. This is the information that patients, doctors, and the healthcare community are using to make important decisions.
The complaints state that Merck was aware of the possibility that this vaccine could cause severe and permanent damage to a person’s nervous system. Moreover, they allege there is a risk of viral infection associated with taking the vaccine. Neither of these risks were shared with consumers. This failure to warn the people taking the vaccine is unfair, and most likely, motivated by nothing but Merck’s hunger to feed its bottom-line.
The Importance of Dependable Vaccines
At the end of April, the World Health Organization (WHO) observed World Immunization Week in order to raise awareness about the importance of protecting people from deadly disease. The twitter handle #VaccinesWork captured some of the productive dialogue the week created.
In order to make our world a healthy place, we need dependable vaccines. When vaccines don’t work, or worse, they get people sick, it’s a huge problem. Companies that manufacture and market vaccines have a responsibility to the people they claim they’re protecting. It’s a promise no one can afford to break.