Amazon appoints pharmacy exec to lead vaccine rollout to its more than one million employees (AMZN)

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Amazon has named 16-year company veteran Nader Kabbani to run its new COVID-19 employee vaccination program, Insider has learned.

Kabbani, who helped build Amazon's online pharmacy business and once led its "last mile" delivery operations, is now building up a team fully dedicated to giving employees access to COVID-19 vaccines when they become available at a wider scale. He has moved into his new role within the past month and now reports up to Amazon's CEO of worldwide consumer, Dave Clark, according to people familiar with the matter.

Amazon's spokesperson confirmed the change in an email to Insider.

The move shows Amazon is putting a trusted longtime executive with deep knowledge of the supply chain in charge of its nascent vaccination program — a leadership priority as the company scrambles to beef up its COVID-19 safety measures. Kabbani has plenty of experience in logistics, having been in charge of Amazon Flex, the company's gig economy delivery program, as well as the operational side of Amazon's pharmacy business.

The transition also comes amid the biggest executive reshuffling in Amazon's history that have resulted in a CEO change and at least 12 vacant spots among the company's most senior leadership positions. In the past year, CEO Jeff Bezos announced he would move into an executive chairman role, and retail boss Jeff Wilke retired. Amazon is still looking for a new CEO and CFO for the Amazon Web Services cloud division, among other positions.

For Kabbani, the priority is to make sure Amazon is ready to provide on-site or off-site vaccines to all of its employees when they become available. It's a tall order given Amazon's sprawling workforce of over one million across dozens of countries, and the complex safety and regulation rules that can differ by state and country.

It's particularly challenging since the vaccine rollout has been unpredictable. Vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna have been given to more than 45 million Americans so far, but less than half of them have received the full two-dose regimen. The two companies have pledged to distribute 600 million doses to the US public by the end of July, while Johnson & Johnson said it could deliver up to 100 million doses of its vaccine, which only requires one dose, by the end of June.

In recent weeks, Amazon has been doubling down on its vaccination efforts. It opened pop-up vaccine clinics at its Seattle headquarters in January, while offering up to $80 to frontline employees who get vaccinated earlier this month. Clark, Amazon's new retail boss, wrote a letter to President Joe Biden last month offering support to reach the goal of vaccinating 100 million Americans in the first 100 days of the administration.

"We are prepared to leverage our operations, information technology, and communications capabilities and expertise to assist your administration's vaccination efforts," Clark wrote in his letter. 

Kabbani's role is separate from Amazon's in-house testing lab, internally codenamed Project Ultraviolet, as Insider first reported last year. The testing project, led by another longtime Amazon executive Cem Sibay, announced this month that it processed over one million tests internally.

Amazon's response to the COVID-19 pandemic has been a hot button issue. Employees and lawmakers publicly criticized the company's lax safety measures and tough warehouse working conditions, and workers staged multiple protests and walkouts. Even some of its hardware devices engineers raised concerns over workplace safety and the delayed testing facilities, as Insider previously reported.

Amazon has actively tried to address those issues, with Bezos becoming much more engaged in the company's operations throughout the pandemic. Amazon previously said it would spend $300 million on the launch of its in-house testing lab and had invested a total of $11.5 billion since last year in COVID-related measures overall. 

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SEE ALSO: Amazon is going through its biggest leadership shakeup in history, and 12 executive roles across almost every division are empty

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