Merck Halts Supply of Lifesaving Vaccine for African Kids to Seek Greater Profits in China, US

In Global by K Pak

AHF condemns Merck for cutting off lifesaving vaccine for children dying from diarrhea in Africa while it also announces plans to expand distribution—and far more lucrative sales—in China.

WASHINGTON (November 5, 2018) AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) today sharply criticized U.S. pharmaceutical giant Merck following its announcement last week that it will no longer supply a vaccine that prevents death by diarrhea in children who live in Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Mali and São Tomé and Príncipe, four desperately poor West African countries.

In a statement to National Public (NPR) Radio, Merck said it is severing its supply of the rotavirus vaccine because of “supply constraints.” Merck charges $70 per dose for the same vaccine in the U.S., $40 per dose for China and only $3.50 per dose for these four African countries.  When the company announced this week that it was canceling its agreement for West Africa, it also announced it would expand its supply of the same medication to China, where it has opportunity to make substantially more in profits.

“Merck is lying.  If they can get away with this tactic, then what’s to stop this and other drug companies from cutting off lifesaving medications, such as antiretroviral medications, to people living with HIV? The real reason they are threatening the lives of little children in Africa is because they have an unquenchable thirst for profit, as Merck stands to make far more money selling the vaccine to markets in the U.S. and China,” said Michael Weinstein, President of AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which provides lifesaving medical care and treatment to more than one million people in 42 countries worldwide, including 13 African countries.  “Its actions suggest that Merck would rather have vulnerable little children die a painful death in their own feces in order that the company can make more money in richer countries.”

According to the Global Alliance for Vaccine and Immunization (GAVI), “the rotavirus infection is the leading cause of diarrhea in children under five and it is highly contagious. It poses an exception to typical diarrheal disease management rules. While improved access to clean water and better sanitation and hygiene practices are vital to preventing most diarrheal diseases, they have done little to disrupt rotavirus infection. The virus may cause severe, dehydrating diarrhea in young children and, in untreated cases, lead to death. Globally, according to the World Health Organization, an estimated 450,000 children under five years of age die each year from vaccine preventable rotavirus infections. Diarrhea is among the top ten causes of morbidity in Uganda, with rotavirus being responsible for about 40% of all diarrheal cases.”

About AIDS Healthcare Foundation

AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), the largest global AIDS organization, currently provides medical care and/or services to more than 1,000,000 individuals in 42 countries worldwide in the US, Africa, Latin America/Caribbean, the Asia/Pacific Region and Eastern Europe. To learn more about AHF, please visit our website:, find us on Facebook: and follow us on Twitter: @aidshealthcare.

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