Amazon offers Biden help to speed up vaccine distribution

The Amazon logo on the side of a multistory window.
Enlarge / An Amazon warehouse on a sunny day in Germany on April 2, 2020.

Amazon is one of the country’s largest businesses—and despite its faults and flaws, the company overall excels at logistics and distribution at scale. Therefore, Amazon suggests, the brand-new Biden administration should give the company a call to help ramp up COVID-19 distribution nationwide.

“Amazon stands ready to assist you in reaching your goal of vaccinating 100 million Americans in the first 100 days of your administration,” Dave Clark, the head of Amazon’s consumer business, wrote in a letter (PDF) to President Joe Biden Wednesday.

Amazon’s more than 800,000 employees should be in the vaccine queue as soon as possible, Clark noted, as individuals working in Amazon warehouses, AWS data centers, and Whole Foods stores are essential workers who cannot work from home. The company has inked a deal with a third-party health care firm to administer vaccines on-site at Amazon-owned facilities, Clark added—if they could just get vaccines to administer.

“We are prepared to move quickly once vaccines are available,” Clark wrote. “Additionally, we are prepared to leverage our operations, information technology, and communications capabilities and expertise to assist your administration’s vaccination efforts. Our scale allows us to make a meaningful impact immediately in the fight against COVID-19, and we stand ready to assist you in this effort.”

“A dismal failure”

There are two COVID-19 vaccines currently approved for use in the United States: one from Pfizer/BoiNTech and one from Moderna. Federal regulators granted permission for both to be distributed and used in mid-December, more than a month ago, but the rollout has been rocky, to say the least.

A week after the Pfizer vaccine became available, state leaders complained that they were not receiving the doses they had been promised by the federal government. The Trump administration blamed manufacturers, but Pfizer issued a statement at the time saying it had “millions” of doses sitting in a warehouse ready to go but had not received any instructions from the federal government on where to ship them.

Before the end of December, the Trump administration had signed a deal with Pfizer for an additional 100 million doses of the vaccine, bringing the total number of doses the US had on order, across both manufacturers, to about 400 million. Getting those doses to materialize, however, remains challenging, and last week The Washington Post reported that the vaccine stockpile, meant to guarantee a reserve of second doses, had already been bled dry.

“The vaccine rollout in the United States has been a dismal failure thus far,” President Joe Biden said in a speech five days before he was sworn in. He promised to do everything in his power to accelerate vaccine distribution during his administration, with the stated goal of reaching 100 million doses administered in the first 100 days of his term.

“The supply is not where it needs to be,” Biden acknowledged in his remarks at the time, but his policy suggestions should mean that “as vaccines become available, they’ll reach more people that need them.”

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