The Biden administration plans to partner with ride-sharing companies Uber and Lyft to provide free transportation for individuals to get vaccinated, as it focuses on building and expanding community outreach.
In a virtual meeting with governors from six states on Tuesday, President Joe Biden outlined the ‘next phase’ of the vaccine rollout with a specific focus on expanding access, building greater confidence in the vaccine and ensuring equitable distribution among vulnerable communities.
As part of that effort, Uber and Lyft have agreed to provide free rides to and from vaccination sites from May 24 through July 4.
“I think that is really stepping up,” Biden said.
The administration plans to partner with community colleges to create on-campus vaccination sites for students, faculty, employees and surrounding community members.
Biden said the Federal Emergency Management Agency will provide funding to state, city and local governments to support their community vaccination outreach efforts with phone banking, door-to-door canvassing or pop-up vaccination sites at workplaces and churches.
“Governors in so many states have been essential partners in this effort,” Biden said. “They know it isn’t about politics, it’s about saving lives and livelihoods, rebuilding our economy and getting us back to our way of life.”
The governors of Utah, New Mexico, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota and Ohio also shared their best practices on vaccinating their populations at the White House meeting.
Maine Gov. Janet Mills said Maine’s low population density and its high proportion of seniors made vaccinating their elderly population a high priority. The vaccine soon became available to all individuals 65 and older soon after frontline healthcare personnel were eligible. By April 7, everyone over 16 were eligible to receive a shot, she said.
The state had a series of pop-up clinics and workplace vaccination sites and is working with FEMA to send mobile vaccination units to more rural parts of the state. Those efforts have led to 67% of Maine’s adult population receiving at least one vaccine dose, and 53% are fully vaccinated.
“Nearly every day, our state has led the nation in getting shots into arms,” Mills said. “But we are not dropping our guard, we’re not slowing down.”
Utah Gov. Spencer Cox said the state’s vaccination program has had to become flexible to accommodate changing levels of demand. He said the state designed a public information campaign that focuses on working with community leaders, family doctors and clinicians to talk with their vaccine-hesitant patients about the benefits of getting a shot.
“We’re finding that those trusted voices are helping with us with those next phases of people who are a little unsure or didn’t have time to get around to it,” Cox said.
Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker said their vaccination program has led to 74% of their adult population having received at least one dose, which ranks second highest in the country behind Vermont. Baker said the state began its rollout by concentrating on getting vaccinations to more vulnerable adult populations first. Outreach campaigns started with mobile vaccination drives at group homes housing adults with mental and developmental disabilities, elderly adults, and guests and workers within homeless shelters.
Baker said the state’s network of community health centers have played a huge role in targeting communities of color, which has led to improved vaccination rates among Black and Latino adults.
Biden lauded the work of the governors for helping to stem the spread of the pandemic. Rates of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths have all decreased over the past 30 days.
More than 220 million vaccine shots have been administered within the first 100 days of the Biden administration as of May 11, Biden said. More than 152 million Americans have received at least one vaccine dose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, while more than 115 million are fully vaccinated.
Biden stressed such progress was only achievable through bipartisan collaboration to combat the pandemic that will need to continue to overcome issues with vaccine hesitancy among some that has led to recent declines in demand.
“It isn’t Democratic progress or Republican progress it’s American progress,” Biden said. “Now we have to take the next step together.”