Merck hires ex-CDC chief to head vaccines unit

Julie Gerberding, who headed the CDC while President George W. Bush was in office, is joining Merck as president of its $5 billion vaccines division. Gerberding, who is replacing the retiring Margie McGlynn, will take charge in late January, arriving at a time when Merck's vaccine revenues have been in flux. Last year, sales at the unit dropped 2 percent. Merck markets a slate of infant-and-child immunizations, as well as the human papillomavirus shot Gardasil, which recently got FDA approval for use in boys.

"I've had the privilege in my previous work in academia and in the federal government to be a passionate advocate for public health priorities such as vaccines, which are an imperative component of global health development," Dr. Gerberding says in a statement. "I am very excited to be joining Merck where I can help to expand access to vaccines around the world."

Gerberding will have her work cut out for her when she arrives. Sales of Gardasil plunged in the third quarter, and the new indication for boys will be a hard sell--especially after a number of experts concluded that giving the HPV shot to boys isn't cost-effective.

- check out the Merck release
- here's the story from the Philadelphia Inquirer