ANKARA 

American ride-hailing company Uber and pharmacy store chain Walgreens have joined forces to offer free rides for individuals to COVID-19 vaccination sites, according to a joint statement on Tuesday.

The initiative will focus on offering free rides to people in underserved communities, in addition to addressing health equity involving education, access, and technology, they said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) points to many factors that hinder vaccine access for communities of color, including vaccine hesitancy and lack of access to transportation, the statement said.

The companies stressed they will focus on these through educational programs, technology solutions to connect people with vaccine appointments, and free transportation to Walgreens vaccine clinics among these communities.

Walgreens announced last Tuesday that it will start vaccinations in its stores this Friday across 15 states as part of the President Joe Biden administration’s Federal Retail Pharmacy Program.

“Transportation should never be a barrier to health care,” Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said in the statement.

Walgreens President John Standley said: “We will take bold action to address vaccine access and hesitancy among those hit hardest by the pandemic.”

Uber will soon start pilot transportation programs in US cities of Chicago, Atlanta, Houston and El Paso, and it aims to provide up to 10 million free or discounted rides to vaccination sites.

The company said it will offer one-click access to pre-schedule rides on its app when a Walgreens vaccination appointment is made.

While nearly 80% of the US population lives within five miles of a Walgreens pharmacy, more than 70% of Walgreens COVID-19 testing sites are in socially vulnerable areas, according to the statement.

Over 59 million doses were distributed and more than 42 million doses were administered as of 6.00 a.m. EDT (1100GMT) Tuesday, according to the CDC. But the number of people receiving two doses of vaccine was just over 9.5 million.

Blacks, Latino and Native Americans are hospitalized more because of the novel coronavirus compared to other groups in the US, according to the CDC.

Hospitalization rates for American Indians or Alaska Natives, and non-Hispanic Blacks were 4.1 and 3.9 times higher compared to non-Hispanic Whites, respectively, showed the CDC report published on Nov. 13.

Hispanics or Latinos were hospitalized 4.2 times more than non-Hispanic Whites, according to data collected between March 1 and Nov. 7 among 70,825 confirmed COVID-19 cases.

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