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Washington's biggest businesses join forces to help with vaccine rollout

Companies, including Starbucks, Microsoft, Costco and Amazon, along with former Gov. Chris Gregoire are helping the state speed up the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines.

SEATTLE — A coalition of companies, some of Washington’s biggest businesses, are helping the state speed up the rollout of COVID vaccines.

Starbucks, Microsoft, Costco, Amazon, and several others are lending experts, some full-time, to the effort.

“We weren't looking for publicity. We asked for nothing from the state,” said former Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire, CEO of Challenge Seattle, the alliance of businesses. “These companies really believe this is a humanitarian effort.”

Starbucks set up a mock vaccine distribution site inside its Seattle headquarters earlier this year to identify bottlenecks in the process.

The company says it helped streamline check-in and the final step when a patient must wait several minutes to see if they have an adverse reaction.

Challenge Seattle companies also helped develop a new vaccine finder tool for the state, which launched this week. Users complained the old one was clunky and full of dead ends.

Companies like Microsoft are also hosting vaccine clinics on their campuses, using their own experts to speed up the process.

Amazon worked with the Washington State Department of Health to improve a vaccine call center. The company also hosts vaccination clinics at its South Lake Union campus.

When asked to identify the shortcomings of the current vaccine distribution process, Gregoire said the most obvious issue was a lack of unified national strategy.

“It's very difficult to deal with a pandemic 50 different ways and that's what's going on in the country,” she said.

Gregoire says Challenge Seattle is now working on helping vaccine sites grow.

“We need to ensure that we've got adequate staffing at each of those respective sites. If we're going to get a lot of vaccines, we need to be able to put out thousands in a given day,” she said.

Challenge Seattle published a detailed playbook, a guide for how to set up and run an efficient vaccination site. They made it public and it's free for any company or government to use.