Americans are now able to get free rides to and from tens of thousands of COVID-19 vaccination sites under a partnership between the Biden administration and the ride-sharing companies Uber and Lyft.
What You Need To Know
- Uber and Lyft are offering free rides to and from COVID-19 vaccination sites through July 4 under a partnership with the Biden administration
- The program kicked off Monday, May 24, and runs through July 4
- President Joe Biden also announced that some community colleges will host vaccination sites and that the Federal Emergency Management Agency will help fund states’ on-the-ground efforts to promote the vaccines
- The actions, which come as vaccine demand in the U.S. is declining, are part of Biden’s goal of having 70% of American adults receive at least one vaccine dose by July 4
The program formally launched Monday, May 24, and runs through July 4.
President Joe Biden formally announced the initiative during a bipartisan virtual meeting with governors earlier this month.
“To ensure that transportation is less of a barrier, from May 24 to July 4, Uber and Lyft are both going to offer everyone free rides to and from vaccination sites,” Biden said at the time. “I think that is really stepping up.”
The partnerships between the federal government and the ride-sharing apps come amid a renewed push to get Americans vaccinated, as vaccine demand in the U.S. declined in recent weeks.
Nonetheless, Biden recently announced a goal of having 70% of American adults receive at least one vaccine dose by July 4. Currently, over 58% of adults have been given at least one shot, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“That's a pretty huge goal, I acknowledge that. But you’ve done a remarkable job,” Biden said to the governors assembled at Tuesday’s meeting. “If we succeed, we’re going to be able to take a serious step towards a return to normalcy by Indepence Day.”
In order to meet his lofty goal, Biden said, the United States must take action in three specific areas:
- Making it easier and more convenient to get vaccinated
- Building confidence in vaccines by answering Americans’ questions with science-based answers
- Ensuring a continued focus on equity throughout the vaccine distribution and administration process.
The partnership with Uber and Lyft is the government’s attempt to address convenience concerns.
The companies already had been offering free or discounted rides to vaccination sites in some circumstances, but now all such rides will be free. The companies will promote the program in their apps, where people will be able to select a vaccination site near them.
Biden also announced yet another tool from the federal government to improve ease of access to vaccines. Those who are interested in getting a COVID-19 vaccine, but may not know where to receive the jab, can text their zip code to 438829 to get at least three locations near them with vaccines in stock at that moment.
As part of the government’s continued focus on vaccine equity, Biden said FEMA is “shifting focus from larger vaccination sites, to smaller, community based sites and mobile clinics to reach people where they are.”
At high-enrollment community colleges, the Biden administration has established partnerships between the schools and retail pharmacies to provide on-campus vaccinations for students, staff and local communities.
And the White House is hoping additional funding to state, tribal and local governments will help with community outreach efforts, including through phone banking, door-to-door canvassing and pop-up vaccination sites in workplaces and churches.
The president in turn thanked the governors for their ongoing efforts during the coronavirus pandemic, and asked them to share some of the statewide efforts that helped their constituents get vaccinated against COVID-19.
Gov. Janet Mills (D-ME), who said her state has around 53% of eligible adults fully vaccinated against the virus, announced a new incentive-based program called “Your Shot to Get Outdoors” during Tuesday’s meeting.
The program will offer any resident 18 years or older who receives either their first shot of a Moderna or Pfizer vaccine, or the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine, between now and May 31 a number of rewards to choose from.
Those interested can apply online for rewards that range from a free fishing license, which typically costs around $25 for Maine residents, to $20 gift cards for use at the outdoor clothing store L.L.Bean.
“We know that people in Maine found refuge and relief in Mother Nature throughout the pandemic, so these incentives will encourage that outdoor activity, while getting more shots in arms as quickly as possible,” Gov. Mills said.
Gov. Tim Walz (D-MN) stressed the importance of transparency in vaccination data, saying the state relied on trusted partners at locations like the Mayo Clinic to either abate or respond to concerns.
But he also took a more light-hearted approach during Tuesday’s meeting when addressing his constituents, saying: "Go get vaccinated so you're alive to vote against me in the next election. I don't care. I just want to get it done."
Meanwhile Tuesday, McDonald’s announced it has partnered with the White House to help promote the vaccines. Beginning in July, the fast-food chain’s McCafé cups and McDelivery seal stickers will feature the “We Can Do This” campaign slogan, created by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and direct customers to vaccines.gov, where they can find trusted, independent information on vaccines.
"We all want to protect ourselves and our loved ones and be together with our communities again,” Genna Gent, McDonald’s USA vice president for global public policy and government relations, said in a statement. “McDonald’s is excited to be doing our part for the people we serve, providing them with simple information that can help keep them safe.”