Internet services giant Amazon has offered to help newly inaugurated US President Joe Biden and his administration help in delivering the Covid-19 vaccine.
Biden’s administration has set a goal of delivering 100 million vaccinations over the next 100 days.
The distribution scheme is part of a $1.9 trillion stimulus plan, which also includes economic relief efforts and increased coronavirus testing.
In order to ramp up vaccinations, the Biden administration will work with state governments to identify priority groups, create vaccination centres, and distribute the vaccines along with other equipment such as syringes and PPE.
In a letter to President Biden, Amazon Worldwide Operations Leader Dave Clark said: “We have an agreement in place with a licensed third-party occupational health care provider to administer vaccines on-site at our Amazon facilities. We are prepared to move quickly once vaccines are available.
“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.”
Since several of the coronavirus vaccines require careful refrigeration to keep them viable, the ‘last mile’ journey from large distributors to the patient is critical. With an immense distribution system in place and extensive experience, Amazon is well-positioned to help with the rollout.
In the letter, Clark noted that many of Amazon’s employees are essential workers.
“The essential employees working at Amazon fulfillment centers, AWS data centers, and Whole Foods Market stores across the country who cannot work from home should receive the Covid-19 vaccine at the earliest appropriate time,” his letter noted.
In April of last year, Amazon reported quarterly revenues of $74.5 billion, an increase on the same period of the previous year as the pandemic drove a surge in online shopping. Company owner Jeff Bezos saw his personal wealth rise by around 65% over the last year.
However, Amazon also warned that it would spend around $4 billion on coronavirus-related expenses. In addition, around 20,000 Amazon employees tested Covid positive in the first six months of the pandemic.
With Biden taking office as the US Covid-19 death toll passes 400,000 and total cases approach 25 million, an effective vaccination strategy is urgent.
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Criticism has been levelled at outgoing US President Donald Trump over his handling of the crisis. With vaccines becoming approved and rolled out in the last few months, the Trump administration has been attacked for a slow and ineffective vaccination programme.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have said that 16.5 million Americans have received the first dose of the vaccine, well behind the Trump administration’s goal of 20 million by the end of December.
This comes on top of complaints of a lack of guidance and support from the federal government.
With a current rate of around 450,000 vaccinations per day, Biden’s plan will need to more than double the current rate.
At present, around 36 million doses of the vaccine have currently been distributed, and less than half of these administered. As such, vaccine production will also need to be increased.