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By Tina Bellon
(Reuters) – Uber Technologies Inc, PayPal Holdings Inc and Walgreens Inc on Monday said they launched an $11 million fund to provide free ride-hail trips to U.S. COVID-19 vaccination sites for people who lack access to transportation.
The Vaccine Access Fund will be managed by U.S. non-profit Local Initiatives Support Corporation, which will identify communities that need free rides as well as local partners to help with the program, the companies added.
Consumers can support the effort by donating to the fund through PayPal or in the Uber app, they said, adding they were also looking forward to welcoming other corporate donors.
In a joint letter to U.S. President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, the companies said their cooperation came in response to calls by the administration for companies to get involved in the pandemic response.
“The Vaccine Access Fund will draw on the innovative tools developed by our respective firms to expand vaccine access and build upon the Biden-Harris administration’s efforts,” the companies said in the letter seen by Reuters.
The fund is separate from Uber’s promise to provide 10 million free or discounted rides to vaccination sites globally, an effort that is both public-spirited and self-interested as it is trying to get more drivers and passengers back on the road.
Lack of transportation is a major hurdle to healthcare equity and vaccine access, and studies show fewer options for medical care in low-income and Black communities that are frequently poorly served by public transit and have lower car ownership rates.
Reporting by Tina Bellon in Austin, Texas; Editing by Himani Sarkar.