Uber is providing Walgreens free rides to increase entry to Covid vaccines

A man waits for pharmacist Joe Borge in Danvers, MA on February 1, 2021. On the first day of Phase 2 of the COVID-19 rollout, seniors 75 and older will be vaccinated at the Walgreens pharmacy on 107 High Street. in Danvers.

Pat greenhouse | Boston Globe | Getty Images

Walgreens and Uber are working together to make it easier for people who don’t have a car or nearby pharmacy to get a Covid-19 vaccine.

The companies announced Tuesday that Uber would offer free trips to Walgreens stores and clinics for those who book an appointment and live in underserved communities. Uber will work with nonprofit partners like the National Urban League to identify people who need the rides.

The pilot program starts in Chicago, Atlanta, Houston and El Paso, Texas. A Walgreens spokeswoman said free rides would be offered in Atlanta as early as next week and then rolled out to the other cities.

The partnership is part of a promise Uber made in December to offer 10 million free or discounted trips to ensure transportation doesn’t stop people from getting the Covid vaccine.

Walgreens, the second largest pharmacy chain in the country, will take on an expanded role in introducing vaccines later this week. Walgreens give vaccines to priority groups – such as older Americans or those with pre-existing conditions – starting Friday in some stores in 15 states and two cities, Chicago and New York.

The Biden government last week announced plans to ship cans nationwide directly to around 6,500 retail stores. It is planned to eventually expand this program to 40,000 pharmacies.

The introduction of the vaccine was slowed by a limited supply. It has also reflected wider health inequalities. The majority of the nearly 13 million people who were given at least one vaccine dose within the first month after distribution were older, white, and female, according to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Many vaccine websites have relied on online systems that can be difficult to navigate for older Americans or inaccessible to those without cell phones or reliable internet access.

Covid has taken a disproportionate toll on black and Hispanic Americans. According to the COVID Tracking Project, black Americans have died from Covid 1.5 times as often as whites.

Walgreens and Uber said they plan to work together in other ways too. Uber said it will add in-app features that will make it easier for Uber drivers, delivery drivers, and freight workers to book a vaccine appointment when it becomes generally available. The companies are developing an educational program with the National Urban League to reduce hesitation about vaccines.

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