Starbucks isn't ready to offer free lattes if you get a COVID-19 vaccine shot, but the coffee giant is trying to do its part to beat back the disease. Washington state Governor Jay Inslee said in a blog post this week it has enlisted Starbucks, Microsoft, Costco and other big companies to help with its vaccine rollout, with a goal of vaccinating 45,000 residents per day.
"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, Washington," Inslee said in a press conference Monday. "We are removing as many impediments as possible to Washingtonians getting vaccinated. We are going to deliver every dose that comes into our state. We will still be dependent on the federal government for doses, but we are doing everything we can once it gets here."
The push comes as many states struggle to get their vaccine programs up to speed. Large states including Georgia, Virginia and California have faltered in distributing vaccines, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
As of Wednesday, Washington had administered less than half of the doses it has received from the federal government so far. That compares with roughly 90% in West Virginia, which has drawn praise for its speedy vaccination program.
Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson confirmed the company's participation in Washington's vaccine effort.
"This is an opportunity to serve others and have impact on a significant humanitarian effort,"Johnson said. "Governor Inslee has convened some of the best public and private resources and capabilities to engage in a concerted effort to optimize and accelerate the vaccination process across our home state. We are proud to contribute in every way we can to help operationalize and scale equitable access to the vaccine."
Starbucks is assigning workers from its operations services, labor and deployment, analytics and insights, and other departments to help design vaccination sites that are efficient and beneficial for patients, Starbucks said. Crucially, given the potential costs, the company is donating its labor to the state and will continue to pay employees while they work on the vaccination program.
"It's like a Starbucks with one product," Johnson said of the effort.
Starbucks' Tryer Center, the lab where the company develops new store designs and systems, has already built a mock vaccination site to conduct tests. One of its goals is to help speed people through the vaccination process and avoid any bottlenecking.
A spokesperson for the company told CBS MoneyWatch that its experience serving 100 million customers a week in 30,000 stores around the world is not dissimilar to a mass immunization campaign.
"Basically, our role is figuring out how do we help these sites and the department of health as they set up vaccination sites. How do we get vaccines to people faster and do that with a person at the center of every decision," the spokesperson said, while noting that physical Starbucks stores will not be repurposed as vaccination centers.
Microsoft will lend its technology expertise to accelerate the rollout, president Brad Smith said at a recent press conference. Its technology will be used to help distribute the vaccine as well as keep track of appointments and individuals' vaccination records. Microsoft has also volunteered the use of its campus and other facilities as a vaccination site.
Kaiser Permanente and Costco are also joining forces. The health care system is helping distribute the vaccine to health care providers throughout the state, while the discount chain has been enlisted to help deliver vaccine to local pharmacies.
First published on January 20, 2021 / 3:56 PM