Retail pharmacy chain Walgreens and rideshare app Uber are teaming up to take on disparities in COVID-19 vaccine access, by giving people in underserved communities free rides to vaccine appointments.
“It’s our belief that transportation should never be a barrier for health care, especially as it related to something as important as vaccinations,” Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said on “CBS This Morning” Tuesday. “This is part of a larger commitment with Uber to provide 10 million free rides to areas, and especially to underserved communities, so that everyone can have access to this vital vaccine as it becomes more readily available.”
The initiative will begin in Chicago, with plans to eventually expand to other cities like Houston, Atlanta and El Paso.
Americans in the communities served by the program do not already need an Uber account to participate, Khosrowshahi said. After making an appointment with Walgreens, they will receive an email from Uber. Eligible participants who create an account will then have access to free transportation to their appointment.
The joint initiative will also consider different eligibility requirements in each state. Rina Shah, Walgreens’ vice president of pharmacy operations and services, pledged the company would “ensure that those individuals that are eligible are the ones able to schedule an appointment.”
“As soon as they schedule an appointment, as Dara mentioned, then they’ll be notified on what their options are, and if they want to utilize the Uber option, to go ahead and be able to come into our stores and get their vaccination,” Shah said.
Walgreens has already provided 2.3 million vaccines to Americans across the country, and starting Friday, the pharmacy chain will expand vaccinations in stores across 15 states and major cities.
The latest push is part of President Biden’s federal retail pharmacy program, which sends vaccines directly to dozens of national pharmacy chains and independent pharmacy networks in order to expand local access to people eligible for vaccination.
“As we get into this next phase, the federal pharmacy partnership has been provided 1 million vaccinations for this upcoming week,” Shah said, adding that Walgreens is expected to “receive around 180,000 vaccinations to help kick off this week.”
And as they work to increase transportation access, Uber’s Khosrowshahi said educating people about the vaccine’s safety is the next big goal for the rideshare company — and a personal concern of his own.
“We’re partnering with the National Urban League, with Walgreens and other partners, to make sure that the message gets out there — it’s safe, it’s effective,” he said. “And in this case, transportation is not going to get in the way of your staying safe.”