Starbucks’ newest product could be … the COVID-19 vaccine?
Not quite. But the Seattle-based coffee giant is working with the State of Washington to help scale vaccine efforts there. Starbucks will work on operational efficiency, scalable modeling and human-centered design expertise and support, the company said on Monday.
“This is an opportunity to serve others and have impact on a significant humanitarian effort,” CEO Kevin Johnson said in an announcement.
Washington Gov. Jay “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 every way we can to help operationalize and scale equitable access to the vaccine.”
Starbucks has joined the Washington State Vaccine Command and Coordination Center, a statewide public-private partnership to boost vaccine distribution efforts. Inslee and the Washington State Dept. of Health formed the partnership as part of a bid to vaccinate 45,000 of the state’s residents every day.
That effort features several public agencies and private companies, including Microsoft, Costco and the insurer Kaiser Permanente, as well as unions, nonprofits and the National Guard. “This is a massive effort, and as noble as any cause will be in 2021,” Inslee said in a statement. “We are removing as many impediments as possible to Washingtonians getting vaccinated.”
A growing number of states are putting together vaccine plans in an effort to bolster inoculations against the coronavirus this year.
Restaurants themselves are dealing with confusion about whether to require their own workers to get vaccinated in the coming months. But the vaccine is considered a vital step for the economy to open, putting pressure on numerous private companies eager to get back to some semblance of normal.
According to NBC News, Starbucks has assigned 11 employees to work full-time on the effort, though that number could change. Johnson told NBC that the pace of vaccinations has been too slow thus far. He noted that it could take “six, seven, eight years” before enough people are vaccinated, given the current pace of inoculations.
“We can’t think that’s an acceptable pace,” he told NBC. “So we have to dramatically scale this up and accelerate the progress.”