For individuals who do not have transportation access to get to a COVID-19 vaccination site, rideshare options, like Uber and Lyft, are a possible solution. According to Lyft, however, public health officials need to ensure sites are as accessible as possible.
In a letter to the acting administrator for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Liz Richter, Lyft noted that mass vaccination sites have the potential to be more efficient if certain steps are taken. There are, however, some logistical design details that could hinder the effort.
In the letter, Megan Callahan, vice president of Lyft Healthcare, wrote: “Without addressing transportation challenges for people who do not drive, drive-through only vaccination sites may not be accessible to many high-risk populations. We are already seeing reports of seniors unable to drive long distances over long periods of time—facing transportation issues as they attempt to get to mass vaccination sites.
More specifically, Callahan noted that seniors who cannot drive, people with disabilities, and low-income people without cars could face challenges. Lyft estimates that approximately 15 million people skip critical healthcare services, like the COVID-19 vaccination, because they don’t have a way to get there.
It’s also a matter of economic impact: “For individuals dependent upon rideshare and other non-emergency medical transportation services – such as Medicaid beneficiaries – the travel time to the site, plus time spent in line, plus the waiting period required to monitor the patient following vaccination can add up to between $50-$100 per vaccination.” For the vaccines that require two shots, that cost would be doubled.
Lyft has a salutation for those individuals. The company is recommending the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services require taxi and rideshare lanes for mass vaccination sites using the drive-thru model. For mass vaccination sites that do not use the drive-thru model, Lyft is recommending a designated pick-up and drop-off site. Creating a separate lane could make the process more efficient and cut costs for both the patient and government payer.
In addition to having a separate rideshare/taxi lane, Lyft is also recommending using an appointment scheduling process for drive-thru vaccination sites. Having pre-scheduled appointments would allow Lyft to pre-schedule its rides as well. This could aid in ensuring appointment attendance.
In the conclusion of her letter, Callahan notes, “Forty percent of Lyft rides in the US begin or end in love-income, underserved areas – indicating that these population already rely on rideshare for critical transport needs. It is essential that vaccination efforts are designed with the transportation needs of these populations in mind to ensure that the hardest-hit communities can begin to recover and the US can defeat the COVID-19 pandemic.”