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Washington Draws on Private-Sector Experts for Vaccine Rollout

Washington state has partnered with companies and organizations like Starbucks, Microsoft and Costco to more effectively roll out its COVID-19 vaccines through a newly created vaccine command and coordination center.

by / January 22, 2021
The Starbucks logo. Shutterstock/Photo Oz

In an effort to streamline the delivery of Washington state's COVID-19 vaccines, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced on Monday the state’s plan to create the Washington State Vaccine Command and Coordination Center to meet a goal of vaccinating 45,000 citizens per day. 

The center — a statewide public-private partnership consisting of Washington corporations, labor unions, health-care groups and government entities — will work together to coordinate all available resources to create an infrastructure to deliver vaccines across the state as efficiently as possible.

The organizations working with the center include Starbucks, Microsoft, Kaiser Permanente, Costco, Service Employees International Union 1199NW, United Food and Commercial Workers 21, the Washington State Nurses Association, Sea Mar Community Health Centers and the National Guard.

“This is a massive effort, and as noble as any cause will be in 2021, because this is the year we choose to get vaccinated,” Inslee said during a press conference on Monday. “We are removing as many impediments as possible to Washingtonians getting vaccinated, and we are going to deliver every dose that comes into our state.”

“We will still be dependent on the federal government for doses,” he said, “but we are doing everything we can once it gets here.”

As for how these organizations will play a role throughout this process, Inslee’s office said in a release that each organization will focus on a different facet of vaccine distribution, including logistic coordination, allocation strategies, infrastructure support and development, and cross-organizational and agency operational communications.

For example, Starbucks, according to a news report by NBC News, will assign 11 employees with expertise in labor and deployment, operations and research and development to work full time on vaccine distribution, adding that the number of employees could change. 

The Starbucks employees assigned to work on vaccine distribution, according to the report, will use the company’s computer simulation modeling system to find ways to expedite inoculations across the state’s 39 counties and 29 tribal nations.

To test these computer simulation models, the coffee mogul is utilizing its Tryer Center, which is currently used to test ideas for new store designs and beverages, to create mock-up vaccination stations and simulations focused on different ways the COVID-19 vaccines can be administered.

“Essentially, Starbucks has said they will look at ways to efficiently get consumers (people being vaccinated) through vaccination sites appropriately and efficiently,” Mike Faulk, a spokesperson from Inslee’s office, said in an email. “They’re taking the principles they apply to getting customers in and out and applying it to mass vaccination sites, with certain obvious adjustments to the uniquely different aspects of a vaccine site.”

Some people, Faulk said, might arrive with questions before they’re vaccinated, and others may be ready to go in and out, so Starbucks has talked about ways to funnel people through different lines so backups are less likely. People are also recommended to wait 15 minutes after the shot to be observed for any side effects, but that still needs to be done in a socially distant way that doesn’t exceed capacity. 

The contributions being made by the other organizations involved in the center, according to Inslee’s office, include:

  • Kaiser Permanente: planning expertise for mass vaccination clinics and distributing vaccines to health-care providers
  • Microsoft: technical expertise and support
  • Costco: vaccine delivery through pharmacies
  • SEIU 1199NW: coordination of volunteer vaccinators to critical locations 
  • UFCW 21: staffing and training coordination of vaccinators
  • WSNA: safety and health consultation for providers
  • Sea Mar: a voice for historically underserved communities
  • National Guard: logistics and infrastructure support

“Our state should be proud of the example we have set and, more importantly, the lives we have saved. It did not happen by accident,” Inslee said in a release. “It happened because of Washingtonians’ sound, science-based, responsible actions as individuals. Everyone can take some measure of pride in how well we have cared for others in these frightening times, and we will continue to lead.”


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Katya Maruri Staff Writer

Katya Maruri is a staff writer for Government Technology. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in global strategic communications from Florida International University, and more than five years of experience in the print and digital news industry.

 

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