Amazon offers to help Biden administration with vaccinations

Cases containing doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine are loaded into a van from a secure cold storage unit in central England. Clark said Amazon is ‘prepared to leverage our operations, information technology and communications capabilities and expertise to assist your administration’s vaccination efforts’. — AFP Inc is offering to help the Biden administration accelerate the distribution of Covid-19 vaccines, including to its own employees.

In a letter dated Jan 20, Dave Clark, the incoming chief executive officer of Amazon’s retail unit, offered his congratulations to President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris. He reiterated a request Amazon made to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last month asking that frontline workers among the company’s more than 800,000 US employees receive vaccines at the “earliest appropriate time”.

Even as much of Amazon’s white-collar corporate workforce at its Seattle headquarters and other offices toil from home, the company’s warehouses, cloud-computing data centers and Whole Foods Market stores have stayed open through the pandemic.

Clark said Amazon has a contract with an occupational health provider to administer vaccines at its facilities. “We are prepared to move quickly once vaccines are available,” he wrote.

Reuters reported on the letter earlier Wednesday.

“Additionally, we are prepared to leverage our operations, information technology and communications capabilities and expertise to assist your administration’s vaccination efforts,” Clark went on. “Our scale allows us to make a meaningful impact immediately” in the fight against the disease, he wrote.

In an interview with Bloomberg Television earlier this month, Jay Carney, a former Biden staffer who now runs Amazon’s policy and communications teams, said the company had offered aid to officials working on the presidential transition. “We’ve offered suggestions, our experiences, and we’re open to any ideas the administration might have, the incoming administration might have, in how we can help,” he said.

Amazon is under pressure from regulators and Congress over its growing power, and it isn’t clear whether the Biden administration will step up that scrutiny.

Since the virus began spreading across the US, America’s second-largest private-sector employer has made major adjustments to its sprawling logistics network to accommodate social distancing. Still, Amazon last year said that some 20,000 of its employees had tested positive for the virus in the first six months of the pandemic. Some employees, lawmakers and labour officials have criticised Amazon’s response to the crisis as insufficient. – Bloomberg

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