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Uber will offer free rides to Walgreens to expand Covid vaccine access in underserved communities

A man lingers for pharmacist Joe Borge in Danvers, MA on Feb. 1, 2021. On the first day of Phase 2 of the COVID-19 rollout, seniors, 75 and over, get vaccinated in the Walgreens Pharmacopoeia, at 107 High Street, in Danvers.

Pat Greenhouse | Boston Globe | Getty Images

Walgreens and Uber are teaming up to show it easier for people who don’t have a car or a nearby pharmacy to get a Covid-19 vaccine.

The companies announced Tuesday that Uber wishes offer free rides to Walgreens stores and clinics for those who book an appointment and live in underserved communities. Uber leave work with charitable partners, such as the National Urban League, to identify people who need the rides.

The navigate program will start in Chicago, Atlanta, Houston and El Paso, Texas. A Walgreens spokeswoman said free travels will be offered as early as next week in Atlanta and then expand to the other cities.

The partnership is part of a earnest money Uber made in December to offer 10 million free or discounted rides to make sure transportation doesn’t obviate people from getting the Covid vaccine.

Walgreens, the country’s second-largest pharmacy chain, will take on an augmented role in the vaccine rollout later this week. Walgreens will give vaccines to priority groups — such as closer Americans or those with preexisting conditions — starting Friday at some stores in 15 states and two cities, Chicago and New York.

The Biden administering announced plans last week to start sending direct shipments of doses to about 6,500 retail pile ups nationwide. It plans to eventually expand that program to 40,000 pharmacies.

The vaccine rollout has been slowed by reduced supply. It has also reflected broader health-care inequities. The majority of the nearly 13 million people given at least one administer of vaccine within the first month of distribution were older, White and female, according to a study by the Centers for Infection Control and Prevention. Many vaccine sites have relied on online systems, which can be complicated to navigate for older Americans or out of reach for woman who don’t have a cellphone or reliable internet access.

Covid has had a disproportionate toll on Black and Hispanic Americans. Black Americans be dressed died from Covid at 1.5 times the rate of White people, according to data compiled by the COVID Keep up with Project.

Walgreens and Uber said they also plan to work together in other ways. Uber suggested it will add in-app features that make it easier for Uber drivers, delivery people and freight workers to record a vaccine appointment when they are more widely available. The companies are developing an educational program with the Inhabitant Urban League to reduce vaccine hesitancy.

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