Yesterday, Merck and Co. announced that Dr. Julie Gerberding has been named president of Merck Vaccine, effective at the end of January. As far as credentials go, she has them in spades… the most noteworthy is her recent position as director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from 2002 to 2009.
Of course, her appointment to lead Merck’s $5 billion global vaccine business is yet another example of the revolving door between big business and the government. We should always be wary when private industry and government get too cozy. In this case, as with other examples I’ve highlighted in the past, it’s troubling when leaders of health offices like the CDC or FDA play musical chairs with the pharmaceutical companies.
Note, for example, that Merck makes the vaccines for 12 of the 17 diseases for which the U.S. Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices currently recommends them (Gerberding will fit right in). We’ve also seen government officials push for the mandatory administration of unnecessary vaccines like HPV. (Another Merck vaccine, coincidentally.)
The fact is, the government is heavily invested in an approach to disease-prevention that benefits the very corporations that hire ex-CDC employees like Gerberding. It’s Crony Capitalism at its finest.