Syracuse, N.Y. — Bristol-Myers Squibb, the pharmaceutical maker that has had a major presence in East Syracuse since opening a penicillin plant there during World War II, will require all its employees in the U.S. and Puerto Rico to be vaccinated against Covid-19 by Nov. 1.
“As a science-based company, we have a social responsibility to help reduce the spread of the virus,” the New York City-based company said in a statement Tuesday. “We are encouraged that more than 85% of our employees in the U.S. and Puerto Rico are vaccinated against COVID-19, and as of November 1, 2021, vaccination will be required for all of our colleagues in these regions. We are committed to implementing similar requirements in other markets wherever possible.”
It added that it will consider medical or religious exemptions on an individual basis.
Bristol, answering a call from the U.S. government for large-scale production of penicillin, opened a plant off Thompson Road in East Syracuse in 1943 to make the life-saving antibiotic. The company phased out production of penicillin at the plant starting in 2004 to focus on research and development of biologics, which are medicines derived from cells taken from plants or animals.
The facility now makes small amounts of drugs for clinical trials and research. According to the company’s website, the East Syracuse plant is licensed for the manufacturing of four commercial biologics products: Opdivo, Nulojix, Yervoy and Empliciti.
Bristol employed more than 2,000 people in East Syracuse in the early 1980s at the height of its penicillin production, but employment levels fell to a little more than 400 people by 2018.
More companies have been requiring employees to be vaccinated since the Food and Drug Administration gave full approval to Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine on Aug. 23.