Erin Forsythe, a nurse practitioner with Virginia Mason, administers a COVID-19 vaccine shot Sunday at the Amazon Meeting Center in Seattle. (GeekWire Photo / Taylor Soper)

During normal times, the Amazon Meeting Center is bustling with Amazon workers and others attending various tech-related events.

Amid a pandemic, the building turned into a mass COVID-19 vaccination site.

Amazon partnered with Virginia Mason for its first pop-up clinic on Sunday that aimed to vaccinate 2,000 people at the company’s headquarters campus near downtown Seattle.

Those who qualified for a vaccine waited in a long line that snaked around the block, just across the street from Amazon’s Spheres.

People wait in line to get into the Amazon Meeting Center, where Amazon helped administer COVID-19 vaccines on Sunday.

But people who went through the process told GeekWire they were impressed with the logistics and the end-to-end process that took about 30-to-45 minutes. Both Amazon and Virginia Mason provided hundreds of volunteers.

“It was so smooth,” said Roni Schaffer. “I loved it. I’ll volunteer next time — it’s fun to be part of, because it’s doing the right thing. Us old folks need this.”

Roni Schaffer shows off her vaccine sticker after getting vaccinated at the Amazon Meeting Center.

After walking through a thermography temperature sensor and up a flight of stairs — with plenty of hand sanitizer and bleach wipes available at every turn — patients were guided toward the meeting center, which was separated into sections for the actual vaccine administration and a waiting area where patients were observed following their shot. Before leaving, people could sign up to get their second shot.

Peter Haley said he felt a sense of relief after getting the vaccine.

“My wife is medically vulnerable and she can’t get a vaccine, but I need to be safe to help take care of her in the future,” Haley said.

Peter Haley got the vaccine at Amazon on Sunday, in part to help take care of his wife.

Haley said he prefers to have more small businesses and “fewer behemoths,” but he likes shopping at Amazon and said his family has relied on the e-commerce giant during the pandemic.

“A big company has more wherewithal to do good community service like this,” Haley added.

Amazon said it expects to host more pop-up clinics in the future. Washington state is currently in its Phase 1B tier of vaccine distribution, which includes anyone 65 and older and people 50 and older who live in a multigenerational household.

The Seattle company is also providing one of its executives to help the state’s vaccine administration efforts.

Fellow Seattle-area tech giant Microsoft is also turning its mostly-vacant campus into a vaccination site, the company announced last week. Microsoft is providing the state with technology expertise and support as part of the new Washington State Vaccine Command and Coordination Center. The group also includes Starbucks, which is helping with “operational efficiency, scalable modeling and human-centered design expertise and support,” while Costco is helping with “vaccine delivery by pharmacies.”

The state has a goal of vaccinating 45,000 per day; it was at about 16,000 per day as of last week.

Amazon last week sent a letter to President Joe Biden, offering to help with the country’s vaccination efforts by turning its facilities into COVID-19 vaccination sites. Amazon is also offering other resources to the U.S. government such as its expertise in operations and information technology.

The company is hoping to get its essential workers vaccinated as soon as possible. A majority of the more than 800,000 U.S.-based Amazon employees do not work from home. There are 20,000 employees in Washington state working at fulfillment centers.

Conditions for Amazon warehouse workers have been the subject of scrutiny and criticism from employee activists and politicians. Amazon has implemented safety measures in warehouses and fulfillment centers to help manage COVID-19 cases, and is conducting thousands of tests per day. The company has done more than 1 million tests to date.

Amazon has boomed during the pandemic as millions turn to its e-commerce and cloud computing services over the past year. Amazon set revenue records for the third quarter 2020 and it is expected to report its first $100 billion quarter for the holiday period. Its stock price is up 70% over the past year.



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