The rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine is already facing numerous challenges.
First, there’s allaying doubts about the vaccine, understandable considering the darker episodes of vaccine experiments in U.S. history. Then, we’ve got the question of fairness, as some members of Congress who questioned the seriousness of the pandemic have already scored the first of their two necessary shots. Stories about wealthy Americans determined to cut in line are also sowing concern. Plus, there’s another dilemma — the moral conversation of why many of the world’s poorer nations could face years until their citizens get inoculated.
One way to gauge whether the COVID-19 vaccine is distributed fairly and equitably across the U.S. could hinge on the success of a multi-stakeholder program announced yesterday.
Lyft, specifically the health care transportation arm of the U.S. rideshare giant, said it has kickstarted a national campaign to help secure universal access to the COVID-19 vaccine. The company will partner with a wide range of organizations, including JP Morgan Chase, Anthem and the United Way. The goal is to provide 60 million rides if needed — remember, we’ll all need to receive the vaccine twice if we are to achieve herd immunity and knock out this virus.
For now, the program promises to involve many moving parts. The list of questions includes how to transport the most vulnerable, underserved populations to the clinics and retailers that have promised to be part of the mass vaccination effort. Further, Lyft needs to sort out how many of these rides will be free or subsidized. In fairness, the company can’t provide all these rides at no cost or at a discount, so all the partners in this effort will have to figure out how to collect donations from either companies or individuals. After all, Lyft’s drivers — who at a minimum rely on ridesharing to supplement their incomes — will have to be paid.
“Access to reliable transportation represents a major barrier to care for millions of Americans across the country,” said Lyft Healthcare’s Megan Callahan in a public statement. “In fact, lack of transportation is one of the top reasons people miss medical appointments. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated this problem, creating a huge challenge in making sure vulnerable populations have access to the vaccine — especially for seniors living alone, low-income workers and parents with young children. We estimate that 15 million Americans will face transportation issues trying to get to vaccination sites. That’s where Lyft can make a difference.”
Additional organizations and businesses that have reportedly signed up for this effort include Centene Corporation, Epic, Modern Health, National Asian Pacific Center on Aging, National Hispanic Council on Aging, the National Urban League, National Action Network and One Medical.
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Leon Kaye has written for TriplePundit since 2010, and became its Executive Editor in 2018. He's based in Fresno, CA, from where he happily explores California’s stellar Central Coast and the national parks in the Sierra Nevadas. He's worked and lived in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay, and has traveled to over 70 countries. He's an alum of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California.