Amazon asks U.S. to include warehouse, grocery staff in vaccine rollout

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(Reuters) Inc on Wednesday asked the U.S. government to prioritize essential workers including its warehouse, grocery store and data center staff for receipt of the COVID-19 vaccine, according to a letter seen by Reuters.

The request shows how the country’s second-biggest private employer, with 800,000 workers in the United States, considers the vaccine important to keeping its staff safe and its facilities open. The U.S. National Retail Federation made a similar request on the industry’s behalf Wednesday as well.

Administration of the vaccine began Monday in the United States, following emergency-use authorization last week. Early doses have been set aside for healthcare workers and nursing home residents.

Dave Clark, Amazon’s senior vice president of worldwide operations, said the company supports giving the vaccine to healthcare professionals and that essential workers should come next, in line with a government vaccine playbook from October. His letter was addressed to the head of an advisory panel at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, called ACIP.

“We request that ACIP continue to prioritize these essential workers who cannot work from home, like those working at Amazon fulfillment centers, AWS data centers and Whole Foods Market stores, to receive the COVID-19 vaccine at the earliest appropriate time,” he wrote. Amazon owns the grocery chain Whole Foods and operates the cloud computing business AWS.

The letter was earlier reported by the Wall Street Journal.

Reporting By Jeffrey Dastin in San FranciscoEditing by Chris Reese and David Gregorio