WaterAid Responds to Merck cancellation of vaccines in Africa

5 November 2018
Toilets, Hygiene, Girls and women, Human rights, Disability
Image: WaterAid/ Sam Vox


November 5, 2018—WaterAid is disappointed by the news that Merck will no longer supply the life-saving Rotavirus vaccine in West Africa, putting millions of children at risk.

Diarrhea is one of the world’s leading killers of children, and Rotavirus is the most common cause of severe diarrhea. Rotavirus kills about 200,000 children each year and hospitalizes hundreds of thousands more, according to the World Health Organization, which recommends that vaccines be introduced in every country.

According to National Public Radio, Merck cited “supply constraints” as the reason for stopping the vaccination program. More than a half-million children in West Africa may not receive the vaccine this year or in 2019 and more than 2 million may go without the vaccination in 2020.

Sarina Prabasi, U.S. CEO of WaterAid, says:

"Every child has a right to grow up healthy and strong. Vaccines, in addition to proper hygiene, sanitation and clean water, can be transformative for a child's health. The Rotavirus vaccine is a critical component of preventing child illness and death. Stopping this vaccine program in West Africa is not acceptable.  I hope Merck will reconsider their decision, and work with Governments, NGOs and the private sector to ensure that no child is left behind."

WaterAid calls on Merck, as one of the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies, to reconsider their decision and reinstate their Rotavirus vaccine coverage of the millions of children at risk in West Africa. While prevention of waterborne disease through clean water, decent sanitation systems, and good hygiene is fundamental, vaccines provide an important extra layer of protection in communities without adequate access to water and sanitation. WaterAid works to ensure everyone, everywhere can fulfill their human rights to water and sanitation, and to education, health and life. 

Click here for more information about how the combination of vaccines and good hygiene practices can save lives. 


For more information, please contact Emily Haile, Senior media and communications manager, at [email protected].