Merck (MRK -0.64%) has elected to keep its dividend steady.

On Tuesday, the sprawling pharmaceutical company said its board of directors has declared that the Q4 common stock distribution will be $0.61 per share. This is to be paid on Oct. 7 to stockholders of record as of Sept. 15. At the most recent closing share price, the dividend yield is just under 3.1%.

Man putting a card reading DIVIDENDS into his suit breast pocket.

Image source: Getty Images.

The amount matches each of the company's preceding three dividends; before that, Merck had dispensed $0.55 per share. The company is a reliable payer and frequent raiser of its payout, typically upping the amount once annually, generally at the end of the year. Since March 2010, the dividend has risen steadily from $0.38 per share to the current level.

The pharmaceutical sector isn't always well-stocked hunting ground for dividends, so Merck is somewhat exceptional in this regard. Returning money in this way to shareholders seems to be a priority; the dividend is being maintained even in the wake of big changes. One of the more prominent of these was its May announcement that it was acquiring buy vaccine maker Themis Bioscience.

Themis is part of Merck's efforts to develop a coronavirus vaccine. If the company can win or place in the Great Coronavirus Vaccine Race and net even a small profit on an approved solution, it stands a chance of opening a powerful new revenue stream.

Merck's shares closed higher on Tuesday, rising by almost 1%, while the overall stock market fell slightly on the day.