SEATTLE (AP) — On the anniversary of the first confirmed COVID-19 case in the United States, Amazon said Thursday it will host a one-day vaccination drive in Seattle this weekend to inoculate as many as 2,000 people.
The tech giant, which has also offered its help to the new Biden administration as it tries to speed vaccine rollouts nationwide, said it would partner with Virginia Mason Medical Center on the effort Sunday. Additional pop-up clinics are expected, but Amazon doesn't yet know where or when they will be held.
“We think we can leverage our operations, our information technology, our logistics, our communications capabilities in ways that can help with this effort, and we want to be a part of it in any way that we can,” said Jay Carney, Amazon's senior vice president of global corporate affairs.
Anyone eligible for the vaccine — including those over 65 years old and front-line health care workers — can try to secure a spot at the pop-up clinic at Amazon's South Lake Union campus by registering for a vaccine waitlist on Virginia Mason's website. Virginia Mason will provide the vaccine and volunteers and schedule people for their second shots before they leave.
Meanwhile, Washington state health officials are plowing ahead with plans to open four mass vaccination sites next week, despite logistical concerns that include questions about vaccine supply.
“When things move fast, nothing is perfect,” Dr. Umair Shah, secretary of the state Department of Health, said during an online news briefing.
Shah acknowledged leaders could face criticism for launching the mass vaccination sites on Monday without knowing when to expect a jump in vaccine shipments from the federal government. The state’s hospitals have warned that having to cancel appointments due to a lack of supply would frustrate patients and undermine trust in the system.
But Shah said it's crucial to build the state's vaccination capacity as quickly as possible. Washington is aiming to triple its current pace of administering the vaccines from about 15,000 a day to 45,000 a day; as of early this week the state had administered slightly less than half of the vaccination doses it had received, though that number could be artificially low due to lags in recordkeeping.
Some hospitals have had more vaccines than they've been able to administer quickly, while some vaccination clinics, including some in Snohomish County, have had to stop booking appointments due to a lack of the shots.
“We need a much more rapid delivery system,” Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said during a news conference Thursday. “We are asking — and frankly demanding — that our partners hustle up here.”
Other corporate partners have also stepped up to offer help, including Kaiser Permanente, which will be involved with the planning and delivery of mass vaccination; Starbucks, which is offering operational and logistical support; Microsoft, which is offering technology expertise as well as its campus as a vaccination site; and Costco, which is helping deliver vaccines through its pharmacies. Two unions, SEIU Healthcare 1199 NW and United Food and Commercial Workers 21, are helping coordinate volunteers and training.
Shah said states are asking President Joe Biden's administration for earlier and more reliable predictions on vaccine supply deliveries. Biden has set a goal of having 100 million doses administered nationwide in his first 100 days in office.
"We have high hopes for new, effective federal leadership in the fight against COVID-19," Shah said.
The planned mass vaccination sites opening Monday include Spokane Arena, the Benton County Fairgrounds in Kennewick, the Town Toyota Center in Wenatchee and the Clark County Fairgrounds in Ridgefield. Some or all will be staffed by the National Guard, but other details remain unanswered, including whether they will be first-come, first-served; how people will make appointments if not; and whether they will be drive-through or walk-up.
“We are working through all those plans,” Shah said.
Shah said his department held a moment of silence at noon Thursday to mark the anniversary of the announcement of the first case of the virus in the United States, which was in a Washington state resident.
AP correspondent Rachel La Corte in Olympia contributed.