Merck recalls 1 mn doses of meningitis vaccine

Merck recalls 1 mn doses of meningitis vaccine

Atlanta: Merck and Co is recalling about a million doses of a childhood vaccine, after testing showed a sterilisation problem in a Pennsylvania factory.

The company is not aware of any harm to children who received the vaccine, known as Hib, which prevents meningitis and pneumonia. It is a three-dose shot recommended for all children under five and is usually given to infants starting at two months old.

The recall involves 10 lots of Hib vaccine and two lots of a combination vaccine for both Hib and hepatitis B, a Merck spokeswoman said.

She said the company did not find contamination in the vaccine itself, but in the plant where the vaccine is produced in West Point, Pennsylvania.

Merck is one of the few drug makers that produces a significant number of vaccines.

While the company took a black eye with its September 2004 withdrawal of the painkiller Vioxx due to increased risk of heart attacks and strokes, the company has been performing well recently. On Tuesday, it gave an upbeat assessment in its annual briefing for analysts.

Five weeks ago, Merck reached a deal to settle up to 50,000 Vioxx lawsuits for $4.85 billion, an amount expected to save the company millions in trial costs.

Its stock price has more than recovered from its post-Vioxx slump, a two-year-old restructuring plan is going well and profits are up. For example, Merck posted a 62% increase in its third-quarter profit as revenues jumped by double digits.