White House turns to Silicon Valley for help with COVID vaccine rollout

A White House spokesperson said officials were talking to several big companies.

The Biden administration is in talks with Amazon and several other Silicon Valley giants to help roll out COVID-19 vaccines across the country. White House spokesperson Kevin Munoz told Politico that officials are “consulting with many companies, including Amazon,” to help distribute medical supplies. Munoz added that businesses with “logistics and technical expertise” could be called upon to help “Americans get vaccinated more efficiently, and more equitably.” Other companies likely to be involved are Google, which has reportedly offered free ad space to public health bodies, and Airbnb, which could help leverage its network of real estate.

Politico suggests that the talks mark something of a turning point in the increasingly-antagonistic relationship between Biden and Silicon Valley. Biden has spoken out against Amazon’s tax practices, supports the creation of unions and has proposed reforms of Section 230, the foundational law underpinning the internet. It’s suggested that the mutually-beneficial rollout of the vaccine would help mark something of a reset in the relationship.

This is not the first time that Amazon has offered help to the US, doing so both under the last president and late last year. On December 16th, 2020, Amazon’s Dave Clark wrote a letter to Dr. Jose R. Romero, chairman of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. In it, Clark said that Amazon’s 800,000 employees should “receive the COVID-19 vaccine at the earliest appropriate time.”

In his letter to the White House on January 20th, Clark reiterated his desire to see Amazon employees vaccinated at the “earliest appropriate time.” He went on to add that Amazon is ready to administer vaccines at its facilities and are “prepared to move quickly once vaccines are available.” An NPR story from January 25th said that Amazon was able to administer 2,000 vaccines out of a pop-up clinic it had set up in Seattle in a single day. Local health officials praised the effort, which could be replicated all across the country.