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Blurring the line between public and private sectors to fight COVID-19

Rachel Mirakova | The Ticker

Following President Joe Biden’s pre-inauguration promise to speed up the vaccination rollout throughout the country in his first 100 days in office, a surge of private companies has seized the opportunity to don their superhero capes and come to people’ rescue. Among them are retailers, pharmacies, tech companies and other surprising contributors.

The widespread distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine requires not only physical vaccination sites, but also aid with management, operations, technology and more. This means companies can assist with setting up programs that offer vaccinations to high-risk and essential workers, as well as help store data regarding the numbers of vaccines distributed, manage the distribution process of vaccinations and more. This is where companies like Microsoft Corp. and Starbucks Corp. have stepped in.

During a recent press conference, Microsoft’s President Brad Smith announced the company will offer its technical expertise to aid the process of vaccine distribution. Similarly, Starbucks has volunteered laborers from various departments ranging from analytics and insights to operations services to help speed up the vaccine distribution process. CEO Kevin Johnson revealed that Starbucks is working in collaboration with the governor of Washington state, where the company is established.

So far, it has aided in distributing 36% of the vaccines the state was allotted by the federal government.

As the COVID-19 vaccine becomes available to the public, distribution of the limited resources is occurring phase by phase.

The first phase targeted senior citizens and essential workers. Some companies are preparing their stores to offer vaccinations as they become available to pharmacies this week. Others are already offering the vaccine.

While CVS is currently offering the vaccines to the priority populace at two of their New York locations, the company is planning to offer vaccinations at all their 10,000 stores later.

Similarly, Walgreens is working with skilled nursing facilities to administer the first doses of the vaccine to high risk and elderly patients while their 9,000 locations across the country prepare to administer the vaccine through appointments in the near future.

More notably, Walmart’s year-long plan to offer COVID-19 vaccines to vulnerable groups according to each state’s guidelines began last week. With over 5,000 locations, Walmart’s part in vaccine distribution will not only help speed up the distribution process but help utilize the company’s technology to track the vaccines across the population. This will allow for tracking side effects, as well as the number of doses to avoid mishaps with the limited supply of vaccines.

As more companies come on deck to help return the population back to normalcy, we can only hope for more support throughout the various stages of distribution. If both private and public industries come together to accelerate vaccination rollout, the public could all at least have their first doses, if not also their second, by late summer.

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