“To the extent that this is a back door to do this with our own government, we shouldn’t be confident about it, but we should be very concerned,” he said.
A spokesman for Amazon rejected the idea that the company’s offer was motivated by a desire to gain competitive advantage or to do good advertising. The spokesman, who noted that Amazon made a similar offer to states last month, said it was the public responsibility of companies to provide their aid to the health crisis.
“There are things we as a country need to do to overcome this pandemic and that includes providing our experience and expertise in logistics and the testing program we have created,” the spokesman said.
It’s unclear how seriously the new White House is taking Amazon’s offer, which a company spokesperson said has not yet been finalized. When asked about the government’s view, a White House official said that the vaccination effort is “a tremendous challenge” where “the public, private and nonprofit sectors must work together to provide the solutions we need in what we need.” To provide scope. ”
Amazon’s offer comes as Biden officials say they are looking to fix a vaccine delivery system they inherited from the Trump administration. Jeff Zients, Biden’s Covid-19 coordinator, complained this week that officials have limited ability to oversee the allocation and distribution of vaccines. Biden has pledged to run a robust federal vaccination campaign after former President Donald Trump transferred most of the work to states that said they had little insight into the country’s vaccine supplies.
In Amazon’s letter to Biden, Dave Clark, director of global operations, said the size of the company “enables us to immediately make a meaningful impact in the fight against COVID-19.” Clark wrote that the company is “ready to use our operations, information technology and communication skills and expertise to aid your administration’s vaccination efforts.”
It’s a potentially attractive proposition, some say. Nancy Foster, vice president of quality and patient safety for the nation’s largest hospital lobby, the American Hospital Association, said vaccination efforts require more “expertise to address major logistical challenges.”
“We welcome announcements like this one from Amazon that will help increase the number of shots in the arms across the country,” said Foster.
The Trump administration hired large corporations to distribute vaccines. UPS and FedEx have signed a contract for ground shipping, American Airlines for air freight, and McKesson for distribution of Moderna’s shot. Experts said the government’s collaboration with Amazon could prove beneficial as the company fills existing gaps in the supply chain.
Other corporate giants joined the vaccination effort this week. In Washington state, Democratic governor Jay Inslee has teamed up with Starbucks, Microsoft, Costco, and others to help bring the state into being. Amazon is opening a pop-up vaccination facility at its Seattle headquarters on Sunday with the goal of delivering 2,000 shots.
The Amazon spokesman said the company’s internal Covid-19 test sites could serve as vaccination centers. There are currently more than 650 employees across the company, the spokesman said, with the ability to test up to 50,000 employees per day.
Some critics stressed that any agreement the federal government has with Amazon needs to be carefully reviewed – and for lack of details, some saw potential landmines. Technical watchdogs warn that Amazon’s offer of help comes into this market just two months after launching an online pharmacy after years of speculation.
Michelle Kuppersmith, executive director of Campaign for Accountability, a corporate monitoring group, said she was concerned about how Amazon would use information from a vaccination campaign.
“Amazon is a company that has already collected an unprecedented amount of data on Americans, and we have no idea how it would treat the data obtained by distributing vaccines,” she said.
Some Amazon critics said they viewed the company’s offering to Biden as an attempt to bolster support in Washington while the company and the tech industry as a whole face increasing scrutiny of their business practices, including the use of user data.
“This is Amazon’s attempt to win favor with the Democrats and advance the idea that its oversized power is something we should embrace,” said Stacy Mitchell, co-director of advocacy for the Institute for Local Self-Employment for Sustainable Community Development has pursued efforts to distribute vaccines at the local level.
Other critics are skeptical that what Amazon offers will make a difference.
“This is a government function,” said Alex Harman of the Public Citizen consumer group. “It might take partnerships here and there, it might involve commanding private resources on occasion, but actually doing the logistics and figuring out the logistics is what the government is for.”