Over the last six years, the massive pharmaceutical company Merck has supplied West Africa with the RotaTeq vaccine. The vaccine protects people from rotavirus, which is a fatal kind of diarrhea typically affecting children under the age of five. The disease takes the lives of at least 215,000 children yearly.
Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance founded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has helped Merck deliver 30 million of the vaccines to Mali, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast and São Tomé.
“Now, however, Merck has told Gavi that it will not deliver a third of the doses needed for 2018 and 2019, and it will cease all deliveries to these countries in 2020. This will leave more than 2.5 million children vulnerable just within these three years…” stated Renae Reints from Fortune.
Merck will now sell the vaccines in China for a greater price than what the African countries were paying. Due to how big the population of China is, Merck’s sales will drastically increase when they gain approval to sell, according to Kasey Fu of GlobalData.
This might be great news for Merck, however, there are other countries who are losing vaccinations because of the company’s decision. In fact, more than half a million West African children will not get the rotavirus vaccination in the upcoming years.
Rotavirus tends not to be life-threatening in affluent countries, such as the United States. However, it is a dangerous illness to obtain in poverty-stricken parts of the world.
“Before rotavirus vaccines were introduced in the USA, rotavirus was responsible for about 3 million episodes of gastroenteritis, 410,000 physician visits, 205,000 emergency department visits, 55,000 hospitalizations, and between 20 and 60 deaths among children younger than age 5 years each year,” wrote Don Ward Hackett of Precision Vaccinations.
Without the vaccine, the United States’ population was greatly impacted. When Merck takes away the vaccine from developing countries, such as Mali and Burkina Faso, the highly-contagious infection is going to be much more deadly and serious to them.
Although the company will still be delivering two-thirds of the needed vaccines in 2018 and 2019, a large number of children will still be susceptible to the disease.