I don’t usually post to this blog two times in a single day, this is an exception. When I saw this article posted on FiercePharma.com the topic has a sense of urgency. And that CEO of a major pharmaceutical company has decided to take a very vocal and public stand deserves immediate amplification. As the article cites, Mr. Frazier has stepped up under other circumstances and this is happening now with intention and frequency. This move from a conservative company in a very conservative industry speaks loudly to me. Merck is taking action beyond a statement on a website. My hope is that other companies will follow. Kudos Ken Frazier, kudos Merck!
Just my thoughts,
Written by by Kyle Blankenship
In a tumultuous 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic and simmering racial protests have exposed gaps between the ideal America some of its citizens see and the real America on the ground. Few voices have captured that difference more clearly than Merck & Co.’s CEO Ken Frazier—and now Frazier is calling on corporate America to take a stand.
In a Tuesday panel convened by Forbes, Frazier highlighted the role that private corporations play in driving societal change and said it was time for industry to step up to the plate to “stabilize society” amid rising economic inequity and racial injustice.
“I think it’s really critically important for us to not only think about what’s good for our individual businesses but what’s also good for the societies in which our businesses operate,” Frazier said. “What makes me worry ultimately, is when people don’t believe in our institutions, and they don’t believe in our system, they don’t believe there’s fundamental fairness, then I think our society begins to come apart.”
As COVID-19 continues to hamstring the U.S. economy, Frazier pointed out racial gaps in employment and healthcare for Black Americans, saying companies need to do more to level the playing field.
“I think what (COVID-19) has done is it’s forced us to confront the huge disparities that characterize our society and should cause us to take bold actions aimed at achieving social justice and health equity and other things of that nature,” Fraizer said.
In the days after the Minneapolis police shooting of George Floyd in May, Frazier—one of few Black executives in biopharma—has emerged as a leading voice, and moral authority, in the industry’s response to systemic racism and the COVID-19 pandemic.
In July, as drugmakers and Trump administration officials trumpeted the possibility of a COVID-19 vaccine by the end of 2020, Frazier said those officials were doing a “grave disservice” to the public by ignoring the scientific and logistical challenges to a nationwide rollout.
Merck itself is pursuing a COVID-19 vaccine that entered phase 1/2 testing in September.
“What worries me the most is that the public is so hungry, is so desperate to go back to normalcy, that they are pushing us to move things faster and faster,” Frazier said in an interview with Tsedal Neeley, the Naylor Fitzhugh Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School. “Ultimately, if you are going to use a vaccine in billions of people, you’d better know what that vaccine does.”