Amazon offers to help Biden administration with vaccine effort after sitting on the sidelines for a month
Chuck Ross, DCNF
Amazon offered to help the Biden administration on Wednesday, shortly after President Joe Biden was sworn into office, with efforts to distribute the coronavirus vaccine, a proposal that the tech giant had not submitted to the Trump administration in the month since the vaccine was approved for public use.
“As you begin your work leading the country out of COVID-19 crisis, 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, Amazon’s senior vice president of world-wide operations, wrote in a letter to Biden, according to Axios.
“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,” said Clark.
Clark also requested that Amazon’s 800,000 employees — who he characterized as “essential workers” — should be prioritized for vaccination.
Biden has said that he hopes to have 100 million Americans vaccinated within his first 100 days in office.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 16 million vaccine doses have been administered to date.
Clark contacted the Trump administration on Dec. 16 regarding the coronavirus vaccine. But rather than an offer to help with distribution of vaccine doses, Clark lobbied the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to grant priority to Amazon employees for vaccination.
“We request that [the CDC panel] continue to prioritize these essential workers who cannot work from home,” Clark wrote to the CDC, The Wall Street Journal reported at the time.
It was not immediately clear why Amazon waited more than a month to offer help with vaccine distribution. Federal and state officials have acknowledged that rollout of vaccines has been more difficult than anticipated.
The Trump administration had hoped to give shots to 20 million people by the end of 2020. The actual number of inoculations ended up being a fraction of that goal.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, a top government scientist, said in an interview on Dec. 31 that distribution of the vaccine had been “disappointing.”
While Amazon is only now coming around to offering help delivering doses of the vaccine, the company has made other contributions to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.
Amazon said it has been in contact with various government officials and agencies over the past nine months regarding response to the pandemic. The company also says it has had extensive talks with the Food and Drug Administration regarding coronavirus testing.
Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon, was reported in May to have been in contact with White House officials regarding assistance to help with the pandemic response effort.
Amazon and the Trump administration have not had the smoothest relationship.
President Trump has been an outspoken critic of “Big Tech” firms, and has suggested steeper tax rates for companies like Amazon, who he said undercut small businesses.
Amazon recently hired a lobbying firm linked to Steve Ricchetti, Biden’s top White House counselor. The company hired Ricchetti Incorporated, which Ricchetti co-founded with his brother, on Nov. 13 to lobby on “[i]ssues related to COVID-19, including implementation of the CARES Act,” according to lobbying disclosure forms.