Private businesses to the vaccination rescue

By ELIZABETH HOVDE  | 
Jan 21, 2021
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Gov. Jay Inslee announced a series of encouraging changes to his vaccine administration in a Monday press conference. He also unveiled a confidence-increasing, public-private partnership to get thousands of vaccines sitting around the state into people’s arms. 

“We applaud today’s critical steps to accelerate vaccine distribution,” Brad Smith, president of Microsoft, said. Inslee called Smith one of the charter members of a new command team that will be made up of business, labor and health care leaders, led by the Department of Health. 

“Building vaccination capacity puts us in a position to play offense with this global pandemic,” Kevin Johnson, CEO of Starbucks and another charter member, if not the founding member, said. Johnson recently approached the state to offer the coffee giant’s help. 

“I just did the math, and figured out at this [current slow] rate of vaccination, it's going to take six, seven, eight years for this country to get vaccinated," Forbes quoted Johnson saying of his effort. Tapping private business will greatly speed up the delivery of vaccination to those who want it.

Having businesses help with vaccine distribution — including communication and technology needs, mass vaccination sites and people power — is more-than-welcome news. So far, only 42% of the state's available vaccines have been administered to people, according to Washington Secretary of Health Dr. Umair Shah. That’s better than previous weeks, when the state was at 19%.

We agree with the governor when he talked about the power of private enterprise to see something like this through. Comparing this effort to the role the Kaiser shipyards played in World War II, he said, “It was private companies, actually, who were the arsenals of democracy.” 

The free market is looking good. 

Last year, Operation Warp Speed encouraged free-market forces to solve the nation’s worst public health crisis, cutting regulations and liberating private-sector innovation. It worked. Within a year of COVID-19 appearing in the nation, with Washington state the country's ground zero, we’re already armed with vaccines. Now, this private-public partnership should accelerate the number of Washingtonians protected.

Here are some of the examples of services private companies and other entities will be devoting to the public health effort:

  • Kaiser Permanente: planning expertise for mass vaccination clinics and the distribution of vaccine to healthcare providers throughout the state.
  • Starbucks: operational efficiency, scalable modeling and human-centered design expertise and support.
  • Microsoft: technology expertise and support.
  • Costco: vaccine delivery by pharmacies.
  • SEIU 1199NW: coordination of volunteer vaccinators to locations where they are most needed.
  • UFCW 21: staffing and training coordination of vaccinators.
  • WSNA: safety and health consultation for providers.

UPDATE: Amazon is partnering with Virgina Mason to offer a COVID vaccine pop-up clinic in Seattle Sunday. Read more here.