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NYC Mandates Measles Vaccinations; Merck Is The Exclusive Manufacturer

Elizabeth Balboa

After a failed public health campaign and an ineffective ban on unvaccinated school students, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is taking drastic measures to curb the nation’s largest measles outbreak in decades.

On Tuesday, the mayor declared a public health emergency requiring unvaccinated residents of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, to get the vaccine or pay a potential $1,000 penalty. De Blasio also warned he might temporarily close non-compliant yeshivas in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community at the heart of the outbreak, according to The New York Times. 

“This is the epicenter of a measles outbreak that is very, very troubling and must be dealt with immediately,” de Blasio said at a press conference. “The measles vaccine works. It is safe, it is effective, it is time-tested.”

The spreading anti-vaccination movement has contributed to 285 confirmed cases, including 21 requiring hospitalization, since the outbreak began this fall. More than 465 cases have been recorded nationwide since the start of the year. As of April 4, 2019 has already surpassed the case counts of eight of the last nine years, and it's on pace to break the 2014 full-year record of 667.

It’s a nightmare for public health officials, but it’s good for Merck & Co., Inc. (NYSE: MRK). The drugmaker is the exclusive manufacturer of the MMR II — measles, mumps, rubella — vaccine, which is generally distributed in two doses.

Notably, the drug represents a blip in Merck’s $42.29-billion in annual revenue. In combination with Proquad and Varivax, MMR II contributed just $1.798 billion in 2018. The package was still the fourth-largest seller in Merck’s leading pharmaceutical category.

Throughout the year, the combination recorded $392 million in the first quarter, $426 million in the second, $525 in the third and $455 in the fourth. Merck’s April 30 earnings report will give an indication of whether the outbreak has altered demand.

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