Letter to Merck

December 30, 2008

Richard Clark, CEO
Merck & Company
One Merck Drive  P.O. Box 100
Whitehouse Station, NJ 08889-0100

Dear Mr. Clark,

I am writing to you regarding your recent decision to discontinue production and sales of your monovalent measles (Attenuvax) and mumps (Mumpsvax) vaccines.  On behalf of over 610,000 US citizens, physicians and members of the clergy who have petitioned Merck in the Campaign for Ethical Vaccines and are deeply concerned with the use of aborted fetal cell lines in the rubella portion of your MMR II and other vaccines, I am asking you to reconsider your position.

Our organization has written to your Corporate offices many times in the past regarding this issue.  We presented these concerns to former Merck CEO, Raymond Gilmartin at your annual shareholder meeting for two consecutive years as a result of the shareholder resolution filed jointly with Human Life International. Over 60 million votes from Merck stockholders confirmed our position that Merck ought to discontinue the use of WI-38, MRC-5 and PER C6 in future vaccine development. I am enclosing copies of the statements presented at those meetings for your review.

You will note that in 2004 we commended Merck for making Attenuvax and Mumpsvax available to the public so that parents could at least protect their children from these diseases without compromising their moral and religious beliefs.  When there have been shortages of these vaccines in the past, parents have waited patiently for the doses to become available, even willing to pay the higher costs in order to avoid the “tainted” MMR II.  Once again, many of these families are waiting for you to resume production and their children will be unprotected unless you provide the doses.  They are already abstaining from rubella and some have even flown overseas to vaccinate their children.  That is, in my view, a disgrace to American healthcare.

Mr. Clark, if you would read the hundreds of thousands of letters we have received, you would understand not only the depth of these families’ convictions, but also the serious need to continue to provide the separate measles and mumps vaccines.  As the sole provider of these important immunizations in the US, I believe you have a duty to public health and safety to ensure that as many children as possible are able to be protected from infectious disease.  Otherwise, it is likely that we will see an increase in measles and mumps outbreaks as we have experienced in recent years when there were shortages.

In closing, you should be made aware that two recent documents from the Vatican have clearly stated the duty to oppose vaccinations that are produced from aborted fetal materials. In June 2005, the Pontifical Academy for Life noted that “there is a grave responsibility to use alternative vaccines and to make a conscientious objection with regard to those which have moral problems.”  While the  document allows parents to use the vaccines “on a temporary basis” when there is “grave danger” to their children, they also allow them to abstain in accord with their moral conscience

And in December 2008, Pope Benedict reaffirmed this in Dignitas Personae, stating that “everyone has the duty to make known their disagreement and to ask that their healthcare system make other types of vaccines available.” The Holy See further stated that “there is a duty to refuse to use such “biological material” even when there is no close connection between the researcher and the actions of those who performed the abortion.”  While Merck may not agree with the Vatican assessment, there are over 63 million Catholics in this country who are morally bound by this Church teaching.

Please, Mr. Clark, take the time to give serious deliberation to our appeal and continue to provide both Attenuvax and Mumpsvax.   I know the packaging, storing and shipping of single doses adds costs to your production, affects your bottom line and may have been a large part of the reason why you decided to stop supplying them.  However, I believe if you would consider providing them to general pharmacies as you did in previous years, you would see a significant increase in sales of both of the separate doses since it is sometimes difficult for physicians to obtain the 10-packs in their private practices. And from a simple humanitarian standpoint, it is the proper, ethical and benevolent action for Merck to take.

If you have any questions or need further material that will assist you in this decision, please do not hesitate to contact me at (615) 898-1070 or at the above address.  Thank you in advance for your kind consideration of our request.  I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Sincerely,

 

Debra L. Vinnedge
Executive Director

CC:    Julie Gerberding, Centers for Disease Control