As vaccine availability increases across the United States, Uber and Lyft are looking to provide transportation for those needing a ride to their vaccination appointments. Both companies are fielding requests from states and municipalities.
Richard Zane, M.D., professor of emergency medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, spoke with NBC regarding the issues of transportation. Zane is helping rollout vaccination efforts across Colorado, from clinics and drive-throughs to mass vaccination centers and pop-up clinics: “There’s a huge swath of the population that struggles with transportation. We need to do whatever is needed in the best interest of the country so we can get mass vaccination.”
The majority of those that may struggle with getting to a vaccination center are the elderly and people with low income. According to Zane, his center is currently evaluating the funding component. They are looking to cover the cost with of mix of their own money, state assistance, philanthropy, insurance coverage, and for transportation partners to provide discounted services.
Lyft has already announced a goal of executing 60 million rides—which is enough to cover each of the 15 million it estimates face barriers to reliable transportation to and from each of their vaccination appointments. Uber has committed to 10 million free rides to rollout efforts. The company is also exploring partnerships with government officials, health care providers, philanthropic foundations, and businesses.
Both companies are looking to have their workers included in the list of those who get vaccinated first. Currently, health care workers and nursing home residents are at the top. Uber and Lyft have sent letters to state and federal officials, asking for their drivers to be taking into consideration when deciding vaccination allocations.
Daniele Burr, Uber’s head of federal affairs, wrote a letter to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: “Early access to a vaccine would help drivers and delivery people continue to play their essential role while also reducing the risk that they may be inadvertently contract, or possibly transmit, the virus. Uber strong supports the recommendation prioritization of Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers for Vaccine distribution.
While rideshare services like Uber and Lyft will likely have the most impact on densely populated urban areas, there are concerns about more suburban and rural areas. These places could see greater impact from other transit options of by leveraging existing retail solution like local pharmacies.
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