Uber, PayPal, other big companies offer vaccine transportation help

A Berks County school system employee gets the COVID-19 vaccine on Monday, 3/15/21 (Commonwealth Media Services screen capture)

By Jenni Bergal

Uber, PayPal and Walgreens have launched an $11 million effort to offer free rides to people who can’t get to COVID-19 vaccination sites on their own.

The Vaccine Access Fund will be managed by Local Initiatives Support Corporation, a national nonprofit community development organization.

The nonprofit will work with local community-based groups to connect people with rides. Uber and PayPal customers also can donate a ride.

The program will focus on people of color and low-income individuals, according to the nonprofit. It will be piloted in Chicago and expand to other parts of the country in the coming weeks.

Residents won’t need a credit card, smartphone or app to participate. Community organizations will request rides on the residents’ behalf and pay for the services with grants from the fund.

Transportation has been a major problem in the nation’s vaccine effort. Millions of older adults and low-income people of color who are at higher risk of contracting the coronavirus don’t have cars or don’t live near public transit. Some live in rural areas far from vaccination sites.

Some counties have set up mobile vaccine clinics that travel to underserved areas, and transit agencies also are stepping up to provide free rides to vaccination sites.

Uber launched a separate initiative in partnership with the National Urban League in December to provide 10 million free or discounted rides to and from vaccination sites to communities of color.

Jenni Bergal is a reporter for Stateline, an initiative of The Pew Charitable Trusts, where this story first appeared.