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Photo: Kena Betancur/Getty Images

Merck “is ending a long-term agreement to supply a lifesaving vaccine for children in West Africa,” NPR reports. “At the same time, the company has started sending the vaccine to China, where it will likely be sold for a much higher price.”

Merck has been supplying a vaccine for rotavirus, which kills about 200,000 children per year, as part of a long-term agreement with UNICEF and Gavi, a public-private partnership that provides vaccines in low-income countries.

  • But the company plans to scale back its West African supply by a third this year and next, and then stop delivering it entirely in 2020.
  • As a result, according to NPR, more than 500,000 kids will go without the vaccine in 2019 and as many as 2 million won’t have it in 2020.

Details: Merck sold its rotavirus vaccine to Gavi for $3.50 per dose in Africa. It costs $70 per dose in the U.S.

  • GlaxoSmithKline also sells a rotavirus vaccine, which it sells to Gavi for $2.25 per dose. But it’s not planning to expand its supplies to make up for Merck’s exit.
  • 2 more vaccines are also in the pipeline, but are still several years away from actually being available in West Africa.
  • Analysts told NPR it’s not clear how much more money Merck stands to make in the Chinese market, but rotavirus is a big problem there, too.

Go deeper

Republicans pledge to set aside differences and work with Biden

President Biden speaks to Sen. Mitch McConnell after being sworn in at the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday. Photo: Erin Schaff-Pool/Getty Images

Several Republicans praised President Biden's calls for unity during his inaugural address on Wednesday and pledged to work together for the benefit of the American people.

Why it matters: The Democrats only have a slim majority in the Senate and Biden will likely need to work with the GOP to pass his legislative agenda.

The Biden protection plan

Joe Biden announces his first run for the presidency in June 1987. Photo: Howard L. Sachs/CNP/Getty Images

The Joe Biden who became the 46th president on Wednesday isn't the same blabbermouth who failed in 1988 and 2008.

Why it matters: Biden now heeds guidance about staying on task with speeches and no longer worries a gaffe or two will cost him an election. His staff also limits the places where he speaks freely and off the cuff. This Biden protective bubble will only tighten in the months ahead, aides tell Axios.

Bush labels Clyburn the “savior” for Democrats

House Majority Whip James Clyburn takes a selfie Wednesday with former President George W. Bush. Photo: Patrick Semansky-Pool/Getty Images

Former President George W. Bush credited Rep. James Clyburn with being the "savior" of the Democratic Party, telling the South Carolinian at Wednesday's inauguration his endorsement allowed Joe Biden to win the party's presidential nomination.

Why it matters: The nation's last two-term Republican president also said Clyburn's nod allowed for the transfer of power, because he felt only Biden had the ability to unseat President Trump.