February 1st, 2021
[Portions of the following blog originally appeared as a post on Forbes.com that Edward Segal wrote as a Leadership Strategy contributor. His other posts on Forbes.com can be read at https://www.forbes.com/search/?q=Edward%20Segal&sh=696c69c8279f]
The recent announcement by Washington Governor Jay Inslee that the state is partnering with Starbucks, Microsoft, Costco, and others to help distribute the Covid-19 vaccine highlights an important challenge—and potential solution—to deliver the vaccine in an effective, strategic, and timely manner.
This was underscored by the fact that, by the end of last December, the number of administered vaccines across the country was far short of the goal set by the Trump administration, according to Reuters.
Inslee told a news conference the state’s government-corporate partnership, “…would speed up the process by creating new vaccination sites, mobilizing thousands of workers, and making everyone 65 and over immediately eligible. This is designed to bring to bear all of our resources in the state of Washington to get the job done. This is a massive effort.”
What Your Company Can Do
A massive effort is certainly needed to end the pandemic and to meet President Biden’s goal of administering 100 million shots in the next 100 days.
In announcing the Biden administration’s national Covid-19 strategy, the White House said, “The federal government cannot solve this crisis alone. Full implementation of [the strategy] will require sustained, coordinated, and complementary efforts of the American people….including businesses; manufacturers critical to the supply chain; civic, religious and civil rights organizations; and unions.”
There are several ways companies can partner with local, state, and national government agencies.
First, business leaders should check with local or state government leaders and officials about the specific assistance they need now to administer the vaccination campaign. Then, based on those needs and priorities, the executives can determine how the capabilities, expertise, and knowledge of their organizations can help meet the vaccine campaign’s priorities.
For example, in Washington state, Starbucks will lend its expertise in moving people through lines quickly to help make the administration of vaccines more efficient, Microsoft will use their campus to help administer shots, and Costco will assist with the delivery of vaccines to pharmacies.
This is not the first time, of course, that members of the business community have helped the country address various aspects of the pandemic. In the early months of the coronavirus crisis, many companies converted their production facilities to make masks and shields, hand sanitizers, and ventilators.
There’s nothing new about corporations and government agencies working together to tackle national challenges and problems. What’s new this time is the magnitude of the emergency and that more Americans have died in the past year from Covid—400,000 and counting—than died in World War II.
“The public private partnership has been always crucial in any of these types of disaster/pandemic responses,” according to Dr. Daniel B. Fagbuyi, an emergency room physician and former Obama administration public health appointee. “It behooves every CEO of a large-scale company with the capabilities or resources to augment our pandemic response to partner with their local governments to expand the four key areas always needed in a disaster (the four “S”s): space, supplies, staff, and other stuff.”
But he said, “Companies should also consider being lenient with their employees that meet the requirements for vaccination to be able to give them an extra day or two off as some vaccinated people may have expected side effects and or other effects that may require monitoring or [their] being ‘out’ that day.”
New Level of Engagement
This unprecedented national public health emergency requires an unprecedented partnership between the federal government and corporate America.
“We’ve never needed to engage the public and private sectors at this level before,” observed Dr. Ashwini Zenooz, chief medical officer of Salesforce, which launched Work.com for Vaccines to help governments and healthcare organizations manage vaccine programs.
“Businesses and governments will need to join forces on a global scale to offer consistent, reliable and truthful messaging about the safety and efficacy of the vaccines. It will require creativity to determine how we share information about the various Covid-19 vaccines across different communities and through channels that people trust,” she said.
The new Biden administration, “…is more open to changing the way the distribution of vaccines has been handled thus far, and a push on private businesses from the federal side would help to get private businesses in a better place,” according to Justin Beck, the founder and CEO of Contakt World, which provides contact tracing services.
He noted that, ”Private business has the power to move faster than the government but needs their guidance to best deploy resources.”