PORTAGE, Mich. (WOOD) — Pfizer is laying off hundreds of workers at its plant in Portage, saying a decline in COVID-19 products is forcing it to make changes.
Two hundred people are expected to be laid off, a Pfizer spokesperson confirmed to News 8 Friday.
“Pfizer does not take these changes lightly. All decisions that impact people, processes and initiatives will be made with transparency, compassion and respect,” a statement from the spokesperson said.
Pfizer lost more than $2 billion in the third quarter, the Associated Press reported earlier this week, blamed on a drop in sales of its COVID-19 vaccine and treatment. The AP said treatment Paxlovid sales were down 97% and vaccine Comirnaty 70%. Sales had also been down in the second quarter. The AP reported Pfizer has seen in growth in sales of Prevnar pneumonia vaccines.
“Pfizer regularly evaluates its manufacturing network to ensure capacity is effectively utilized based on product demands. Considering the lower-than-expected utilization for our COVID-19 products – Comirnaty and Paxlovid – Pfizer launched an enterprise-wide cost realignment program to support future revenue expectations. As a result, we are anticipating an impact to approximately 200 employees at our Kalamazoo, MI site,” the statement continued.
Pfizer Global Supply in Portage is the company’s largest manufacturing site, and the company is the city’s largest employer.
“Pfizer has been and will continue to be a great public partner to the City of Portage and the region. We will do all we can to support the people who have lost their employment,” Portage Mayor Patricia Randall said in a Friday statement.
In December 2020, right after the COVID-19 vaccine received emergency authorization from federal regulators, the first doses shipped out of the plant in a line of pickup trucks, bound for all corners of the country. Pfizer earned record revenue of $81.3 billion in 2021, double the figure from the previous year.
The spokesperson’s statement added that Pfizer “remained committed to (its) patients and will continue to produce the COVID-19 vaccine to meet demand.”
PHARMACIES SEE FEWER PEOPLE GETTING COVID-19 VACCINES
Keystone Compounding Pharmacy in Grand Rapids doesn’t offer Pfizer’s latest COVID-19 vaccine booster, but Moderna’s is available. Even with a different brand, pharmacist-in-charge David Miller says they’re not seeing many people want the shot.
“When people come in for their flu shots, we always ask them if they’d like a COVID booster, and only about a quarter of the time we have been taken up on that,” Miller said.
Throughout Michigan, health officials have seen a similar trend.
The state saw upwards of 60% of eligible residents receive their primary series of COVID-19 vaccines. That number fell to 18% for the bivalent booster, which was released last year.
Now, even fewer people are up to date.
“With the newest vaccine, we’re only at around 4%,” said Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, Chief Medical Executive with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.
The exact reason for the declining numbers is unknown, but Miller believes vaccine fatigue is a factor.
“Everybody’s either had COVID once, twice, multiple times, or they’ve gotten vaccinated once, twice, or multiple times, and they just don’t see the need to get that last vaccination,” Miller said.
Despite declines in hospitalizations and deaths compared to the height of the pandemic, both Miller and Bagdasarian say it’s still important that people stay up to date on the shots.
“For folks who got immunized a year ago or two years ago, their immunity is not as strong as it once was, so this is a really good time to get that updated vaccine to keep your levels strong,” Bagdasarian said.
She added that COVID-19 will continue to mutate and change.
“And that means if you have seen if your body has seen previous versions of COVID-19, it may not be as quick to respond to the current circulating variants,” Bagdasarian said.
Bagdasarian says data does lag and it’s still very early for the newest boosters, so she does expect that the percentage of people who receive the shot will continue to rise.