Frontline healthcare workers and researchers on the trail of a COVID-19 vaccine grab headlines in times like this, and deservedly so.
But the day-to-day job of keeping all of us generally healthy in the midst of a pandemic, so that we’re less likely to require medical attention and fill hospitals beds that can be better used, is arguably more important than ever.
Myerstown’s Bayer Corporation plant, located just off Route 501, is the global company’s one and only North American producer of a variety of non-prescription medicines and dietary supplements used by consumers throughout the U.S. and Canada.
This year, the plant will send over 150,000,000 packages—over 12 billion tablets—of iconic over-the-counter products like Bayer Aspirin, One A Day vitamins, Claritin, and Coricidin, to major customers in the U.S. and Canada such as Walmart, CVS, and Walgreens.
According to John Caruso, Bayer’s Myerstown-based Vice President for Consumer Health Product Supply, demand for products that are at best indirectly related to COVID-19 is up sharply this year.
Bayer Myerstown normally runs three shifts five days a week, and at least one shift seven days a week, but shifts are being added. The plant usually employs about 600 permanent and temporary workers, but that is suddenly not enough.
“We are hiring [more] temporary employees to support the additional shifts,” Caruso said.
“We are seeing our retailers and large customers asking for more, and they are asking for it earlier. We’ve seen a 50 percent increase in demand across nine of our biggest customers.”
Caruso added that getting such an enormous amount of product to customers throughout North America, by truck, is so far not a problem. “We have robust supply chains. We are in very good standing.”
Manufacturing over-the-counter medications is a tightly regulated industry, so sanitation and hygiene are always important at Bayer Myerstown. That has taken on more importance since the outbreak of COVID-19.
“We have given our employees self-assessments and clear guidance as to coming to the site or not,” Caruso said. “All employees are screened for temperature.”
“Anyone with a temperature over 100.4 degrees, anyone who has traveled to an area with a known local spread, anyone who has been in contact with someone who has tested positive, they do not enter the site and must report to our health services,” Caruso said.
According to Myerstown’s web site, Bayer aspirin has been produced there since 1964, first by Sterling Drug, and since then by Bayer of Germany after it repurchased the rights to the American brand in the 1990s.
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