By Ed Silverman
As the measles outbreak focuses attention on parents who object to vaccination, some pro-life groups argue one culprit contributing to the problem is actually Merck, which makes the only measles vaccine available in the U.S. And some have begun a new campaign this week to pressure the drug maker to alter the composition of its vaccine.
At issue is the MMR – or measles, mumps and rubella – combination vaccine sold by Merck. Pro-life groups say they object to the rubella component on religious grounds because it was made using cell lines derived from aborted fetuses. As a result, the groups say pro-life supporters have avoided the MMR vaccine ever since Merck ended production in 2009 of a dedicated measles vaccine.
“The current outbreak would not be as severe or widespread if parents had the ability to access separate vaccines,” says Debi Vinnedge, the director of Children of God for Life, a non-profit, pro-life organization. “Parents are being unfairly targeted as the problem when Merck is the problem. If they had the separate doses available more people would have been vaccinated.”
To what extent a separate measles vaccine might mitigate any recent outbreak or uptick in the disease is unclear. Children of God for Life and the American Life League, another pro-life group that this week has called for Merck to change its vaccine production, are uncertain of the number of supporters who would vaccinate their children if MMR was not offered only as a combined product.
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