Stronger Together

Fighting COVID-19: how we’re assisting the Berlin Vaccination Center

Bernhard Schaefer is among the numerous Bayer employees who are supporting in the fight against the pandemic. A pharmacist by trade who handles data monitoring for the development and life cycle management of thrombosis products at Bayer Medical Affairs, Schaefer has filled hundreds of syringes at the Berlin Vaccination Center at Erika Hess Ice Stadium since March. Here he talks about his deployment.

Why are you helping out at the vaccination center?

When I learned that Bayer was supporting the vaccination campaign, it was immediately clear to me that I was going to get involved. I wanted to help ensure that as many Berliners as possible could quickly get vaccinated. I had a lot of respect for this work, however, because the last time I worked in a pharmacy was before I joined Bayer in 1988 – and I’d never filled a syringe at all prior to this.


Yet the training organized by Bayer and the support of my colleagues in the vaccination center soon allayed my anxiety. By the second day it already felt as if I’d never done anything else, and I began to really enjoy the work. There are two or three people from Bayer working on every shift. You become acquainted with colleagues from completely different areas of the company, such as R&D, Quality Control or Pharmacovigilance.

 
That’s when I really became aware of how much I’d missed personal contact in the past months. I’ve been working from home during the COVID pandemic, and when I do go into the office I basically have the whole floor to myself. Here at the vaccination center, we work on site as a team with a common goal – to overcome the pandemic.


Can you describe the process at the vaccination center?

There are two shifts: one lasts from about 8 in the morning until 1:30 in the afternoon, and the other from 12:30 to 6 p.m. After we’ve thoroughly washed our hands and donned our protective clothing – consisting of a mask, hair net, lab coat, overshoes and gloves – we enter the preparation area and work in sterile conditions.


Seven workers here fill syringes from small bottles containing the vaccine and monitor one another, while two others subject the syringes to a final visual inspection and another colleague coordinates the procedures. Together with the labels for the vaccination pass, the released syringes are placed into cases designed by Bayer and carried through an airlock into the anteroom. An employee from the German army then transports them vibration-free to the vaccination booths.

Hundreds of people and invisible helpers work behind the scenes…

That’s right, it’s not just the helpers from Bayer working on site, but also their supervisors back at the company, who demonstrate tremendous flexibility. It’s the colleagues in our teams who cover for us, postpone meetings and take on some of the workload. And last but not least, it’s the company itself, which finances the leaves of absence, a portion of the equipment and the catering during the breaks. The paid staff at the vaccination center also very much appreciate this support.

 
Do you plan to continue your deployment?

Definitely. I now sometimes help out on a volunteer basis on the weekend and on bank holidays because my 20-day leave of absence has ended. For example, I signed up to work a couple of shifts around the weekend of Ascension. There isn’t much else to do at the moment anyway, so I like taking advantage of this time to do something beneficial. And as it’s always just half a day, that leaves enough time for family and hobbies. I can easily imagine helping at Bayer’s vaccination center once the company has doses to vaccinate the employees.

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Bayer against COVID-19

This is one of many examples of how Bayer is helping to fight the COVID pandemic worldwide with donations, products and expertise. We are also supporting CureVac in the development, supply and production of the vaccine candidate CVnCoV. Learn more about our engagement in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic here in our Corona hub and in our “Stronger Together against COVID-19” blog entries.