After the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) publicized measles outbreaks in several states beginning in January 2019, on May 1 Merck & Co. announced that it had increased production of its live attenuated (weakened) virus MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine in response to an increasing demand for the product in the United States. As of July 25, there have been 1,164 confirmed cases of measles in 30 states and there have been similar large increases in reported measles cases in other countries this year.1 2 3 4
“As measles outbreaks have occurred in different parts of the world over the last few decades, we’ve always been able to surge capacity, and we feel confident about our ability to do so in the U.S.” said Merck Chief Marketing Officer Mark Nally.1
On July 30, Merck reported that sales of its vaccines for children rose by 58 percent during the second quarter of this year to $675 million, compared to the second quarter of 2018. The company acknowledged that the spike in sales was boosted by sales of its MMR vaccine.5
Merck Chief Commercial Officer Frank Clyburn notes, “There was some buying to the private sector within the U.S. this quarter based on some of the measles outbreaks that you read in the news. And we do believe that we’ll continue to see growth for our pediatric vaccines going forward.”5
Merck is the sole supplier of measles vaccines in the U.S.1 5 It produces two measles vaccines, including the MMR II and ProQuad, which is a combination measles, mumps, rubella, and varicella (MMRV) vaccine.6
The CDC recommends that children receive two doses of MMR vaccine—the first dose at 12-15 months of age and the second dose at 4-6 six years. Additionally, according to the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC), “CDC recommendations state that persons age 18 or older, who were born in 1957 or later, should get at least one dose of MMR if there is no laboratory evidence of naturally acquired measles immunity or documentation that a measles vaccine was given on or after the first birthday.”7
There are several other manufacturers of MMR vaccines in the world, including AstraZeneca and GlaxoSmithKline of the United Kingdom, Sanofi Pasteur of France and Serum Institute of India, but Merck is the only company licensed to sell a measles containing vaccine in the U.S.8
1 Erman M. Merck steps up U.S. measles vaccine production with increased demand. CNBC May 1, 2019.
2 Whyte C. There have been more than 1000 cases of measles in the US this year. New Scientist July 30, 2019.
3 Global Sentinel. Nigeria, Global Measles Cases Increase More Than 300% in 2019 – Report. Apr. 22, 2019.
4 World Health Organization. Vaccination against measles increases amid ongoing outbreaks in Europe. July 15, 2019.
5 Lovelace B. US measles outbreak helps boost Merck’s vaccine sales in second quarter. CNBC July 30, 2019.
6 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. MMR and MMRV Vaccine Composition and Dosage. CDC.gov Mar. 28, 2019.
7 National Vaccine Information Center. Measles Disease & Vaccine Information. NVIC.org.
8 Apex Market Research. Global MMR Vaccines Manufacturers Market By Product Type (Monovalent, Combinational) And By End-Users/Application (Pediatrics, Adolescents) Global Market Share, Forecast Data, In-Depth Analysis, And Detailed Overview, and Forecast, 2013 – 2026. July 29, 2019.