He said: “To the extent that this is a back door to do it using our government, we should not look at it seriously, but we must be very concerned.”
An Amazon spokesperson rejected the notion that the company’s bid was driven by a desire to gain competitive leverage or generate good publicity. The spokesperson, noting that Amazon made a similar offer to the states last month, said providing assistance for the health crisis was a matter of corporate public responsibility.
“There are things that we as a country need to do to beat this pandemic and that includes lending our expertise and experience in things like logistics and the testing program that we’ve created,” the spokesman said.
It’s unclear how seriously the new White House has accepted Amazon’s offer, which a company spokesperson said is still a work in progress. When asked about the administration’s point of view, the White House representative indicated that the vaccination effort represented a “tremendous challenge” that would require “the public, private and non-profit sectors work together to provide the solutions we need at the scale we need.” “
The Amazon offer comes as Biden officials say they are Struggling to reform a vaccine distribution system They inherited from the Trump administration. Jeff Zents, Biden’s Covid-19 coordinator, complained this week that officials have limited ability to monitor vaccine allocation and distribution. Biden pledged to undertake a robust federal vaccination effort after former President Donald Trump paid most of the work to states, which said they had little insight into the nation’s vaccine supplies.
In Amazon’s message to Biden, Chief Global Operations Officer Dave Clark said the company’s scale “allows us to make a meaningful impact immediately in the fight against COVID-19”. Clark writes that the company “stands ready to leverage our operations, information technology, capabilities, and communications expertise to assist your department’s vaccination efforts.”
Some say it’s likely to be an attractive proposition. Nancy Foster, vice president of quality and patient safety policy at the nation’s largest hospital lobby, the American Hospital Association, said vaccination efforts need “more experience managing major logistical challenges”.
“We welcome ads like this from Amazon that will help get more shots across the country,” Foster said.
The Trump administration has enlisted major companies to help distribute vaccines. It contracted UPS and FedEx to handle road freight, American Airlines air freight, and McKesson to distribute Moderna shot. Experts said that government cooperation with Amazon could be beneficial if the company bridges gaps in the supply chain.
Other giant companies joined the vaccination effort this week. In Washington state, Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee has partnered with Starbucks, Microsoft, Costco and others to help launch the state. Amazon is also opening a temporary vaccination site at its Seattle headquarters Sunday, with the goal of managing 2,000 rounds.
An Amazon spokesperson said the company’s internal Covid-19 test sites could double as vaccination centers. The spokesperson said there are currently more than 650 employees across the company, with the ability to test up to 50,000 employees daily.
Some critics stressed that any federal government arrangement with Amazon needed to be carefully examined – and in the absence of details, some saw potential landmines. Tech watchers have warned that Amazon’s offer of help comes just two months after it launched an online pharmacy after years of speculation that it is eyeing this market.
Michelle Koppersmith, executive director of Accountability Campaign, an institutional watchdog group, said she was concerned about how Amazon was using information from the vaccination effort.
“Amazon is a company that has already collected an unparalleled amount of data on Americans, and we have no idea how it deals with the data collected through vaccine distribution,” she said.
Some critics of Amazon have said they view the company’s bid for Biden as an attempt to bolster Washington’s support as the company and the tech industry in general face increased scrutiny over their business practices, including their use of user data.
Said Stacy Mitchell, associate director of the Local Self-Help Group Institute for Sustainable Community Development, which has been tracking vaccine deployment efforts at the local level.
Other critics doubt that Amazon’s offer will be of much value.
“This is a government job,” said Alex Harman of the consumer awareness group Public Citizen. “It may require partnerships here and there, and it may necessitate the seizure of private resources from time to time, but the actual implementation of logistics services, and the discovery of logistics services, is what the government is seeking.”