Amazon is preparing to administer on-site coronavirus vaccinations to nearly 20,000 of its workers in Washington, according to a letter from the company to Gov. Jay Inslee in which the company urged the state to prioritize its workers for vaccination.
An Amazon spokesperson reiterated Saturday that the company’s warehouse and grocery workers should receive the vaccine “at the earliest appropriate time.”
The commerce giant said in the Dec. 21, 2020, letter that it has signed an agreement with “a licensed third-party occupational health care provider to administer vaccines, just like we do for seasonal flu shots.” KING 5 initially reported on Amazon’s communication with Inslee’s office.
Amazon, the state’s largest employer, also contacted the office of King County Executive Dow Constantine to assure officials that Amazon stands “ready to partner with the state and King County to help with logistics or other assistance should they need it,” company spokesperson Glenn Kuper said in an email.
The letter to Inslee, from Brian Huseman, Amazon’s vice president for public policy, was sent four days after Inslee announced Washington would receive 40% fewer vaccine doses than initially expected, sending state officials briefly scrambling to rework plans for vaccine distribution.
Huseman urged Inslee to follow guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to administer the vaccine to front-line essential workers, including most Amazon warehouse and grocery employees, immediately after vaccinating long-term facility residents and health care personnel.
The state subsequently laid out guidance that people aged 50 or older working in agriculture, food processing and grocery stores may be eligible to receive the vaccine in February, but their younger colleagues will likely have to wait until April or beyond.
Amazon previously asked the CDC to prioritize its fulfillment center workers when doling out doses of the vaccine.
“In many ways, our essential workers have served as heroes in their communities during this pandemic,” Dave Clark, Amazon senior vice president of worldwide operations, wrote to the CDC in December. The company requested that the CDC “continue to prioritize these essential workers who cannot work from home.”
Amazon was not the only company to request that its workers be prioritized, said Inslee spokesperson Tara Lee in an email.
“Similarly, many large employers are planning to assist with vaccine distribution to their workforces, similar to on-site flu shot clinics, once the supply is available and their workers meet the criteria outlines by the state,” she said.
Amazon, which employs roughly 80,000 people statewide, has 20,000 Washington workers in its warehouses — where goods ordered online are stored, sorted and shipped to consumers — and various retail locations, including 11 Whole Foods grocery stores.
The company declined to respond to a question about whether the vaccine will be mandatory for its employees. The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled last month that employers can require workers to be vaccinated, with some exceptions.
After drawing criticism last year for coronavirus outbreaks at its warehouses, Amazon scaled up on-site coronavirus testing at its fulfillment, delivery and sortation centers. Nationwide, the company operates 650 coronavirus testing centers capable of testing 50,000 workers a day. Amazon has previously said its workers test positive at rates no higher than the general population.