Walmart, Amazon and even a Las Vegas casino are offering to help kickstart Covid-19, as the Biden administration aims to speed up the rollout of the US vaccine even if it exceeds the EU’s stumbling effort.
The world’s largest retailer said on Friday it expected to be able to deliver 10 to 13 million doses per month from pharmacies it operates in more than 5,000 U.S. stores, once a sufficient vaccine supply would be available. Walgreens is one of several drugstore chains helping to dispense doses, claiming it has already inoculated 1 million vulnerable Americans.
The United States has now shot 5.3% of its population – 17.4 million people – far more than European countries, Germany with 1.8%, Italy with 2.1 % and Spain with 2.3%, according to the FT Covid-19 vaccine monitoring. President Joe Biden said he wanted 100 million people to be vaccinated in his first 100 days in office.
Corporate America tells new Biden administration it could help it go even faster, Amazon writing to the president on inauguration day offering to “leverage our operations.”
Walmart and others have also called for more consistency around eligibility rules that differ from state to state.
“We have more capacity to put needles in guns than what is currently used,” said Doug McMillon, general manager of Walmart, during a call Tuesday with the Business Roundtable, a lobbying group.
“What we hope is that the Biden administration could come and clarify these things, make decisions like [whether all patients aged] 65 and over [are] eligible.”
EU vaccination rate also lagging behind the UK, which delivered the first doses to 8.8% of its population, and Israel, which is far ahead of any other country at 36.4%.
Ashish Jha, dean of the school of public health at Brown University, said the pace had picked up in the United States in the past 10 days. But he said he was surprised at the slowness with which the EU was delivering vaccines, given how badly the continent was suffering from pandemic.
“You would think there would be this incredible political pressure to act quickly on vaccines,” he said.
In Las Vegas, Americans can get Covid-19 hits at the casino. Matt Maddox, managing director of Wynn Resorts, told the Financial Times that he has been doing an average of 800 vaccinations a day since opening a clinic at his Encore at Wynn casino this week in partnership with University Medical Center of Nevada.
“I want Las Vegas not only to be a place to have fun, but also the safest place to come and have fun,” he said. “I want to create safe zones so that we can maybe have a disco [open] earlier than planned or grab a convention earlier than planned or organize a concert.
In Washington state, companies are creating a “vaccine command and coordination center,” with Microsoft contributing technology and Starbucks developing models for rapid deployment of vaccination sites.
Many employers, including Instacart and Dollar General, are pushing essential workers to get vaccinated, including paid time off or small cash allowances.
Giving injections at retail pharmacies and other commercial places would make it easier for people to get vaccinated, as they are usually located near homes and workplaces and sometimes operate around the clock.
But Rochelle Walensky, the new director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, warned Thursday that the vaccine would not be in all pharmacies by the end of February, as the Trump administration had suggested.
Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at Georgetown University, said Operation Warp Speed - the federal program to speed up the development and distribution of Covid-19 vaccines – has given the United States a head start , but that she still had “a long way to go.”
“Distribution is always a huge problem, so it’s crucial to have as many points as possible for people to get vaccinated. The involvement of companies will always improve access and make it easier for people to get vaccinated in their arms, ”she said.
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