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Walgreens, Uber partner to provide access, free rides to U.S. COVID-19 vaccination centers

FILE PHOTO: George Valley, a patient at Crown Heights Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation, receives the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine from Walgreens Pharmacist Annette Marshall in Brooklyn

(Reuters) – Walgreens and Uber Technologies Inc on Tuesday said they will team up to provide educational programs and free transportation to U.S. COVID-19 vaccine clinics to underserved communities and people in rural areas.

The companies said the program will roll out in the coming months, once more vaccines become available to the general public, and include free transportation to Walgreens stores and other vaccine clinics.

Patients who schedule a Walgreens vaccination appointment will receive an email offering them a pre-scheduled ride, with pilot transportation programs beginning in Chicago, Atlanta, Houston and El Paso, the companies said.

The efforts center on giving vaccine access to communities of color, who have shown higher rates of skepticism about the safety of vaccines, with many distrustful of government authorities and lacking access to healthcare services.

Black and Hispanic populations, overly represented among the working poor and accounting for a large share of high-risk jobs in food service, factories, warehouses and healthcare, have also been ravaged by the pandemic.

Early data indicates the groups are lagging white Americans in COVID-19 inoculations, with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention saying it needed more complete data.

Walgreens and Uber have partnered with the National Urban League, a civil rights organization advocating for African Americans, and other groups, the companies said.

Uber said it was also launching new in-app features to connect its drivers and delivery workers with vaccines when they become available for those groups.

Uber in December committed to provide 10 million free or discounted rides to vaccine appointments for disenfranchised communities.

The United States has administered more than 42 million vaccines as of Monday, according to CDC data. In most states, older people above the age of 70 are currently eligible for vaccines, but vaccination appointments are hard to come by, with demand outstripping supply.

(Reporting by Tina Bellon in New York; Editing by Andrea Ricci)

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