Deerfield, IL—While getting vaccine with stringent storage requirements to distribution centers might be a challenge, so is getting many older and infirm Americans to sites where they can be immunized.

The response has been varied across the country. North Carolina, for example, is using about $2.5 million in Coronavirus Relief Funding so that local transit agencies can provide free rides for those needing transportation assistance to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. New York City also is offering about 10,000 free rides a week.

Other areas, such as Los Angeles, are bringing the shots closer to those eligible to get one by using mobile vaccine centers.

A nationwide solution involves one of the United States’ largest drugstores chains, which has recognized that getting vaccine supply isn’t enough. It also has to get Americans who need to be vaccinated to the pharmacy.

As a result, Walgreens has partnered with Uber Technologies, Inc. to offer free transportation to its vaccine sites in socially vulnerable communities.
 
“By combining Walgreens deep experience in community care with Uber’s transportation technology and logistics expertise, we will take bold action to address vaccine access and hesitancy among those hit hardest by the pandemic,” said John Standley, Walgreens president.
 
“Transportation should never be a barrier to health care. We look forward to building on this exciting new partnership with Walgreens, harnessing the power of the Uber platform to help connect more people with vaccines, as we all work together to help end this pandemic,” added Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi.
 
Free rides—both to offsite vaccination sites and Walgreens pharmacies—are just part of the initiative. Uber has agreed to provide up to 10 million free or discounted rides to vaccinations. Pilot programs will begin in cities including Chicago, Atlanta, Houston, and El Paso. Those making a Walgreen vaccination appointment will have one-click access to preschedule rides on Uber. After appointments are confirmed, an email also will be sent, extending the offer to schedule a ride.

The partnership also is making available new in-app features to help active drivers, delivery people, and freight carriers using Uber, Uber Eats, or Uber Freight, with vaccines when supply increases. In addition, the companies are discussing development of an educational program with the Chicago Urban League to address vaccine hesitancy.
 
In December, when Uber originally committed to providing free rides to vaccine sites, it partnered with the National Urban League, National Action Network, and the Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta.

Walgreens points out that nearly 80% of the U.S. population lives within 5 miles of one of its pharmacies and that most, more than 70%, of its COVID-19 testing sides are in socially vulnerable areas. It also has recently expanded different models of care to ensure the delivery of vaccines in underserved and rural areas, such as mobile and off-site clinics.

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