May 18, 2021
Senior Vice President of Emerging Issues, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation
Since early 2020, the United States has worked to beat back the threat of COVID-19. That work continues today in the U.S. and around the world through the Global Task Force on Pandemic Response.
As part of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Global Forum on Economic Recovery, Andy Slavitt and Dave Clark sat down with Michael Carney to discuss how the United States has managed to accelerate the fight against COVID-19. Slavitt, the current White House senior advisor for COVID response, and Clark, the CEO of Amazon's worldwide consumer business, represent the broad collaboration of government and private companies working together to defeat COVID-19.
Vaccines Are the No. 1 Challenge in COVID-19 Recovery
“There are, as we all know, a set of challenges ahead of us,” said Slavitt. “There's a set of Americans who are still considering whether they want to get vaccinated, and much of our recovery will depend on how they decide.”
“I think we need to respect people's processes,” Slavitt continued. “Respect the fact that people … have questions that they need answers to. Many of them want to see what happened with the vaccinations that went before them. So if you've been vaccinated, talk to people [and] tell them what the experience was like.”
Slavitt asserted that the U.S. plays an important role in vaccinating more than just U.S. citizens.
“[Many of us] understand what a fortunate position the U.S. is in to have these vaccines available ... and the U.S. has got to take its leadership role seriously and step up and help with [making vaccines available worldwide] too.
Companies Should Prioritize Keeping Domestic and International Workers Safe and Vaccinated
As Clark discussed the global supply chain and the major disruptions Amazon faced in the pandemic, he focused on the workforce’s pivotal role in the process.
“I think we all learn just how interconnected we are as a society and global society,” Clark said. “And what happens in one country, in one part of the world [and] how it impacts all the rest of us.”
Clark noted that, because there were so many asymptomatic cases of COVID-19, the U.S. recognized the need to pivot and offer onsite vaccination clinics to help stop the spread.
“We see [substantial] increases ... 20%+ increases in the amount of people who immediately start to go get vaccinated when we can simply remove the friction relative to having to leave [to get the vaccine],” Clark added.
The Government Can Support the Recovery of the Economy With Honest and Timely Communication
In Clark’s opinion, the population — particularly the workforce — needs to understand the positive impact of the government’s steps toward recovery.
“Following the science and getting the announcements out and continuing to move forward with the safety of the vaccine … people needed to see and hear that it was actually a path forward,” he said.
Building Back Better Starts With the Willingness to Help
From the beginning of Slavitt’s time in office, he’d seen a willingness for collaboration between governments and private enterprise.
“Almost from day one, people all across the country called and said one thing: ‘How can I help?’” Slavitt said. “I wish Americans could have heard that call because I just got this real sense that people are like, ‘Hey, we're all in this together.’”
“The people shared their ideas and their opinions ... but it's very clear that this recovery belongs to the American public,” Slavitt said. “It doesn't work unless everybody works through this together.”