As the government ramps up accessibility to Covid-19 vaccines, Uber, Lyft and other transportation services across the country are partnering with businesses, cities and pharmacies to offer free rides to vaccination sites.
In an effort to provide more vaccines to communities of color and to address vaccine skepticism, Uber said this week it has partnered with retail pharmacy chain Walgreens to offer free transportation to its locations and offsite vaccination clinics in cities such as Houston, Chicago and Atlanta.
The initiative comes after Uber pledged in December to offer 10 million free or discounted rides to assure that “transportation is not a barrier to getting the [Covid-19] vaccine.”
“Transportation should never be a barrier to health care,” Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said in a statement. “We look forward to building on this exciting new partnership with Walgreens, harnessing the power of the Uber platform to help connect more people with vaccines, as we all work together to help end this pandemic."
Lyft's goal is to provide "a total of 60 million rides to and from vaccination sites for low-income, uninsured, and at-risk communities," Danielle Adams, a spokesperson for Lyft, told NBC News.
"We partner with a number of health systems, Medicaid, and Medicare Advantage plans to move their 65+ members. These health care organizations can call, schedule, and pay for rides to vaccine appointments on behalf of their patients and those covered by government health programs," Adams said, adding that riders do not need the Lyft app or a smartphone.
Since 1995, public transportation ridership has increased by 28 percent — higher than the 23 percent increase in the U.S. population. Yet 45 percent of Americans still don’t have access to public transportation, according to the American Public Transportation Association.
Jersey City in New Jersey was one of the first cities to join forces with Uber to offer expanded access to vaccination sites, offering 12,000 free roundtrip rides to "residents who will benefit most from avoiding crowded mass transit or may not otherwise have the means to travel," Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop said in a statement.
“The majority of people in Jersey City don't have cars, and that’s an even higher percentage when you talk about seniors and lower-income communities,” Fulop told NBC News’ Gabe Gutierrez.
Retail giant Target said Wednesday it has partnered with Lyft to provide free roundtrip rides to all team members for Covid vaccination appointments. “Taking care of our team has been at the heart of every decision we’ve made since the coronavirus started,” Chief Human Resources Officer Melissa Kremer said in a statement.
In San Diego, the Metropolitan Transit System is offering free rides for residents in the region to vaccination sites. In East Texas, the Brazos Transit District will be providing free transportation, and the North Carolina Department of Transportation has allocated around $2.5 million to help pay for rides.
“Partnerships like this are crucial to make it possible for everyone to be able to take their shot when it’s their spot,” said Mandy Cohen, Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.
At a recent visit to the National Institutes of Health, President Joe Biden announced that the federal government had purchased an additional 100 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech, as well as 100 million more doses from Moderna.
“We have now purchased enough vaccine supply to vaccinate all Americans and now we’re working to get those vaccines into the arms of millions of people,” Biden said.