Can Shingles Vaccine Cause Injury and Death?
Yes. The Zostavax product insert states that “transmission of vaccine virus may occur between vaccines and susceptible contacts.”,1 i.e. - the vaccinated individual is contagious with vaccine strain chickenpox and can infect others with chickenpox, if they have not previously had chickenpox. Other reported vaccine adverse events in clinical trials or post-marketing, include pain, swelling and redness at the injection site; headache; zoster-like skin rash; fever; shock; joint and muscle pain; swollen glands; and respiratory symptoms.2 Optic Neuritis following Zostavax vaccine has also been reported in a published case study.3
Shingrix adverse events in clinical trials include pain, swelling and redness at the injection site; headache; fever; fatigue; shivering; gastrointestinal issues; gout; and optic ischemic neuropathy. GlaxoSmithKline has committed to various post marketing studies for the Shingrix vaccine licensed in 2017. According to data presented by the CDC during the June 2018 Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) meeting, since its licensure in October of 2017 to April of 2018 there were 680 reaction reports submitted to the federal Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), with no unusual or unexpected patterns and events. The majority of reports were in females and were not serious events, with the most common reaction being injection site pain.4
Using the MedAlerts search engine, as of August 31, 2018, there have been 46,561 reports of shingles vaccine reactions, hospitalizations, injuries and deaths following shingles vaccinations made to the federal Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS), including 142 related deaths, 1,023 hospitalizations, and 766 related disabilities.
Shingles vaccine is one of the few vaccines not covered by the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986, which means individual may sue the vaccine manufacturer directly for vaccine injuries associated with the vaccine. Currently Merck, the manufacturer for Zostavax, is defending itself against 60 lawsuits that allege the vaccine caused serious side-effects, including death. The outcome of these proceedings is pending.5
IMPORTANT NOTE: NVIC encourages you to become fully informed about Shingles and the Shingles vaccine by reading all sections in the Table of Contents , which contain many links and resources such as the manufacturer product information inserts, and to speak with one or more trusted health care professionals before making a vaccination decision for yourself or your child. This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice.
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1 FDA. Zostavax (Frozen). Product Information Sheet. Mar. 21, 2018
3 Han S.B, Hwang J.M., Kim J.S. et al. Optic neuritis following Varicella zoster vaccination: report of two cases. Vaccine. 2014 Sep 3;32(39):4881-4
4 CDC. ACIP Home – Meetings.
5 Luhana, R. Merck Files Motion to Consolidate Zostavax Lawsuits in Florida. The Legal Examiner. May 30, 2018.