Unusually Strong Hiring — At Merck’s Nascent Durham, NC Vaccines Facility

Local Raleigh-Durham news outlets are reporting that the vaccine ramp-up is running ahead of schedule:

. . . .By the end of this year, Merck will grow its Durham vaccine-producing plant to 1,000 employees, higher than previous estimates and nearly five times larger than the work force at the beginning of 2010. . . .

Since 2010, the Durham facility has been partially manufacturing Varivax, a childhood vaccine to combat chickenpox, but splits manufacturing duties with a plant in Pennsylvania. Early next year, Durham hopes to receive approval to manufacture Varivax from start to finish, Wagner says. . . .

When fully licensed, the facility will manufacture parts of Zostavax, a vaccine for shingles in older adults, M-M-R II for measles, mumps and rubella, and ProQuad for measles, mumps, rubella and chickenpox.

Through the first three quarters, sales of those vaccines combined were on pace to generate more than $1.5 billion in 2011. In 2010, the vaccines had combined sales of $1.6 billion. Merck did not record any sales of ProQuad in the second or third quarters of 2011, which had made up the smallest portion of sales in the previous quarters.

Although Merck is relocating some production work from Pennsylvania to North Carolina, union leaders in Pennsylvania are not concerned, says Fred Redmond, the international vice president for the United Steelworkers, which represents 800 workers at the Merck facility in West Point, Pa. “We don’t see this as a shift to work from a unionized state to a non-unionized state,” he says. “For now, we aren’t concerned. . . .”

Since construction began in 2004, Merck has invested nearly $1 billion in the Durham facility, says Cheznee Johnson, Merck’s global communications manager. . . .

We shall see, but longer term (as I’ve repeatedly said since late 2009), West Point probably should be concerned — this new shop is a $1 billion, state of the art, entirely non-union plant. It is adding jobs way ahead of schedule, with numerous new FDA site approvals reaching the business end of the pipe, soon.


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