Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer
Thermo Fisher Scientific
At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, my company, Thermo Fisher Scientific, knew its first priority was to keep its colleagues around the world safe. We also knew developing a portfolio of COVID-19 tests was critical to help manage the global pandemic.
After instituting our internal safety protocol across all our sites, our colleagues answered the call and worked around the clock to deliver one of the world’s first PCR-based COVID-19 tests just three months after researchers published the virus’s genomic code using our sequencing technology. Efforts by our R&D teams to meet customer needs continued in the months that followed. To date, the company has delivered a broad portfolio of COVID-19 tests – several of which have received Emergency Use Authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration – that are used in more than 140 countries.
While these tests were developed to help control the global pandemic, access to this technology also provides companies with the ability to develop robust return-to-work strategies. As part of Thermo Fisher’s commitment to keep our workplaces safe and healthy, we launched our own internal program to provide at-home collection kits and online access to test results.
PCR-based molecular diagnostic testing – in combination with social distancing, mask requirements and frequent handwashing – is now central to our employee testing program. To date, Thermo Fisher has provided testing to more than 20,000 of its colleagues and the company is launching a voluntary testing program in early 2021 to significantly increase access to testing.
The scientific and medical communities have done heroic work during the past year to develop therapies and vaccines at an accelerated pace. As vaccines are being deployed on a priority basis, workplace testing, combined with complementary safety protocols, continues to be the most effective measures to help reduce the spread of infection.
A work environment that encourages surveillance testing supported by mask requirements, social distancing and frequent handwashing protocols is critical to ensure continuous operation and keep the economy moving forward. Recent innovations to Thermo Fisher’s leading PCR testing platform, known for decades as the gold standard for its accuracy, are addressing the need for higher testing capacity in labs, faster access to results and simplified sample collection.
In an effort to improve and expand workplace testing programs, Thermo Fisher is teaming up with other leading employers to establish the Workplace Employers Alliance for COVID-19 Testing (WE ACT), a nonpartisan coalition that includes Amazon and CVS Health. Under the WE ACT banner, we will work with Congress, the incoming Biden Administration and regulators to ensure that everything possible is being done to increase the availability of COVID-19 testing in the workplace.
WE ACT will advocate for the following objectives:
- A Comprehensive Testing Strategy: The lack of a comprehensive testing strategy leaves employers to navigate a complex landscape of varying regulations and requirements. WE ACT supports a comprehensive federal testing strategy that includes clear guidance for testing implementation and results reporting.
- Expanded Access to High-Quality, FDA-Authorized Tests: As demand for testing increases, it is important that employers have access to high-quality, FDA authorized tests.
- Resources for Data Sharing: WE ACT is committed to serving as a resource for any government or employer who wishes to launch or expand an employer-based testing program. Government and private employers – and employees – will benefit from sharing lessons-learned from different COVID-19 testing programs.
All employees who perform essential work that contributes to keeping economies open should have access to COVID-19 testing in the workplace. With help from the federal government, employer testing programs could be expanded to ensure access to COVID-19 testing. We look forward to working with policymakers to meet these objectives over the next few months.
For more information about the Workplace Employers Alliance for COVID-19 Testing (WE ACT), please visit www.weactalliance.org.