Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee announced on Monday a series of new efforts to help boost the state’s Covid-19 vaccinations, including partnerships with companies like Starbucks and Microsoft.
Inslee revealed in a news conference the state has established a “public private partnership” between the health department and other business, health care and labor leaders, dubbed the “Washington State Vaccine Command and Coordination Center.”
Members in the partnership will focus on different aspects of vaccine distribution, the governor said, and will “coordinate all available resources to administer more vaccines in the state of Washington in the fastest and most efficient way possible.”
Kaiser Permanente, for example, will be responsible for helping plan for mass vaccination clinics, while Starbucks will help with operational efficiency.
“Now, we are not a health care company,” Starbucks President and CEO Kevin Johnson said during the news conference. “But Starbucks does operate 33,000 stores at scale, serving 100 million customers a week and we have a world class team of human-centered design engineers who are working under the direction of the state and health care providers … to help support the creation of vaccination centers that can scale and … amplify the comfort, care and safety of every person who gets vaccinated.”
Microsoft President Brad Smith said they will provide technology expertise, adding he has “confidence that we can bring vaccines to everyone faster because of this initiative.”
Smith added that since the company’s buildings don’t all have employees because of the pandemic, they will partner with local hospitals to set up vaccine administrations on their campus and provide support staff.
“The goal is to make this, in February, one of the mass vaccination sites,” Smith said, clarifying that “this is not going to be a site for Microsoft employees, this is going to be a site for people in the community.”
Other stakeholders in the coalition include Costco, which will help with vaccine delivery by pharmacies, as well as employee unions to help coordinate volunteer vaccinators.
“This is a huge undertaking – no one can do it alone,” Dr. Umair Shah, secretary of the state’s health department said in a statement.
“Together, with the measures Governor Inslee and others have announced, we pledge to make the forward progress the people of Washington deserve to get COVID-19 under control and protect everyone with this life-saving vaccine,” Shah said.
Governor announces more initiatives
Among other new efforts, the governor said “effective immediately,” people 65 and older and people 50 and older who live in a multigenerational households will now be eligible to receive the vaccine.
“The reason for this is clear,” he said during a news conference. “About 80% of all Covid deaths in the state of Washington have occurred to individuals who are 65 and older. So, our vaccine prioritization obviously reflects the need to protect these most vulnerable Washingtonians.”
Inslee said the state will also establish mass vaccination sites with the help of the National Guard and has also launched a new Phase Finder – an online tool that helps residents determine their eligibility for Covid-19 vaccinations.
Following the announcement, the state’s health department announced so many residents were visiting the tool that officials were “getting reports that it’s crashing for some folks.”
Health officials urged residents on Twitter to “keep trying” to access the tool and try taking a break and coming back “a bit later.”
“We’re heartened by the sheer number of people in Washington who have logged on to ‘find their phase’ using our tool – this overwhelming interest demonstrates that, collectively, people are ready to get their #CovidVaccine and help us end the #COVID19 pandemic as soon as possible,” the department wrote on Twitter.
Inslee says the goal is to eventually be vaccinating 45,000 residents daily. That goal, he said, is higher than the state’s current vaccine allocation by the federal government by “several fold.”
“We want to establish an ambitious goal of building capacity to vaccinate 45,000 people and the reason for this is we always want our capacity for vaccinations … to match or exceed the number of doses we actually are getting from the federal government,” he added.