Our commitment to communities during the COVID-19 pandemic
April 1, 2020
Citizens and organizations alike are doing their part in this truly global effort, including the biopharmaceutical industry. As a company dedicated to saving and improving lives, we recognize that we have a special responsibility to help. Our company remains focused on protecting the safety of its employees and their families, assuring that our supply of medicines and vaccines reaches our patients, contributing our scientific expertise to the development of antiviral approaches and supporting our health care providers and the communities in which they serve.
Here are some examples of how we are helping our communities:
Teaming up to advance COVID-19 research
Science and collaboration are both necessary to combat COVID-19, and we believe a range of medicines and vaccines will be needed to end the pandemic. In May, we announced two COVID-19 vaccine development efforts — a collaboration with IAVI and plans to acquire Themis Bioscience, a company focused on vaccines and immune-modulation therapies for infectious diseases, including COVID-19 — as well as a research collaboration with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics to develop a novel oral antiviral candidate for the treatment of COVID-19. In addition, we are:
- Working with the Institute for Systems Biology to investigate and define the molecular mechanisms of SARS-CoV-2 infection and COVID-19 and identify targets for medicines and vaccines.
- Taking part in the NIH-led Accelerating COVID-19 Therapeutic Interventions and Vaccines (ACTIV) consortium, which aims to develop a collaborative framework for prioritizing vaccine and drug candidates, streamlining clinical trials and regulatory processes and leveraging assets among all partners to rapidly respond to the COVID-19 and future pandemics.
- Partnering with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and a consortium of life-sciences companies to help accelerate the development, manufacture and delivery of vaccines, diagnostics and treatments for COVID-19.
Helping mothers in need
Through Merck for Mothers, our global initiative to help end preventable maternal deaths, we are committing $3 million to help health systems better meet the needs of pregnant women before, during and following delivery while tackling COVID-19. Merck for Mothers will be directing investments to efforts in COVID-impacted countries to help address maternal health challenges that are arising as a result of the pandemic. To learn more about these challenges, read an OpEd by Dr. Mary-Ann Etiebet, lead and executive director of Merck for Mothers, published in the Scientific American entitled Keeping Pregnant Women Safe During the Pandemic.
Donating masks in New York and New Jersey
Our company has so far provided 800,000 surgical face masks in the U.S. for use as part of urgent efforts to address the outbreak in New York and New Jersey. We use these types of masks, and others, in many aspects of our manufacturing and research work. We continue to look closely at our available supplies of personal protective equipment and other supplies for potential use by health care workers, and we will partner with health authorities to allocate those supplies to areas of need.
Responding to the call for skilled volunteers
Health professionals like doctors, nurses, medical laboratory technicians and others are in high demand. We’ve expanded our volunteer policy to enable these colleagues to help with SARS-CoV-2 health care in their communities.
Supporting relief efforts
To help advance health equity and address disparities, we are working with select external partners to support U.S. and global efforts that support underserved and vulnerable communities and patients with underlying health conditions and strengthen health systems and capacity of frontline health care workers to provide care for vulnerable patients. Additionally, we’re helping by providing financial support to relief organizations so they can help communities affected by the outbreak. We’ve provided support to:
- The United Nations Foundation’s COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund in support of the World Health Organization
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Foundation’s Emergency Response Fund to support response efforts in the U.S.
- The Chamber of Commerce Foundation to support small businesses in the U.S.
Providing ethanol – and flowers – in the Netherlands
Our team in the Netherlands donated 160 liters of ethanol from its Oss facility. The donation will be used by local general practitioners for disinfecting offices and equipment. In addition, the team in the Netherlands donated more than 600 bouquets of flowers to brighten homes and offices and help support the nation’s flower farmers who have had to destroy crops as a result of coronavirus-related flight restrictions.
Getting even smarter with tech
Our employees are finding new, creative ways to collaborate during the COVID-19 pandemic so that work can continue with minimal interruption despite new limitations. For example, using virtual reality “smart glasses” to allow them to quickly connect and collaborate between our sites for remote troubleshooting, technical transfer, training and virtual tours/inspections.
Keeping hands clean in Ireland
Our Irish colleagues in Ballydine donated 80 liters of bulk isopropyl alcohol, which was used to produce approximately 100 liters of sanitizer for general practitioner offices to use.