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Has Merck Said It's 'More Effective' to Catch COVID Than Take a Vaccine?
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Has Merck Said It’s ‘More Effective’ to Catch COVID Than Take a Vaccine?

The pharmaceutical giant has suspended its vaccine research but has not suggested it's better to get the virus.

A series of social media posts and articles are claiming that pharmaceutical company Merck has said that it’s better to get COVID-19 and recover than to get the vaccine. 

An article from True Defender is headlined: “Merck Stops COVID Vaccine: ‘Studies Showed People Better Off Catching Virus and Recovering!’” An article from a site called Summit News has a similar headline: “Merck Scraps COVID Vaccines; Says It’s More Effective To Get The Virus And Recover.”

While the text of the Summit News article is fairly straightforward, these headlines are misleading and missing context. 

It’s true that Merck is no longer developing a COVID-19 vaccine, and the company did disclose that its vaccine candidates showed immune responses “inferior to those seen following natural infection,” but the company also explained that other vaccines, already approved and being distributed, are more effective. Nowhere does the company suggest it’s better to catch the virus and recover.

Merck explained its decision in a statement from January 25: “This decision follows Merck’s review of findings from Phase 1 clinical studies for the vaccines. In these studies, both V590 and V591 were generally well tolerated, but the immune responses were inferior to those seen following natural infection and those reported for other SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19 vaccines.” Merck plans to research and develop “two therapeutic candidates” instead of vaccines.

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Khaya Himmelman is a fact checker for The Dispatch. She is a graduate of Columbia Journalism School and Barnard College.