Walgreens and Uber Technologies Inc. have partnered to help achieve health equity during the COVID-19 pandemic by improving access to vaccines in underserved communities.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention points to many interrelated factors that hinder vaccine access for communities of color, including vaccine hesitancy and lack of access to transportation. Walgreens and Uber are addressing these barriers by developing educational programs with community leaders and organizations, technology solutions that make it easier to connect people with vaccine appointments, and free transportation to Walgreens vaccine clinics in socially vulnerable communities.
“By combining Walgreens’ deep experience in community care with Uber’s transportation technology and logistics expertise, we will take bold action to address vaccine access and hesitancy among those hit hardest by the pandemic,” said John Standley, president of Walgreens.
“Transportation should never be a barrier to health care,” said Dara Khosrowshahi, CEO at San Francisco-based Uber. “We look forward to building on this exciting new partnership with Walgreens, harnessing the power of the Uber platform to help connect more people with vaccines, as we all work together to help end this pandemic.”
Walgreens and Uber will roll out several initiatives over the coming months as vaccines become available for mass distribution, including:
- Free transportation to Walgreens stores and off-site vaccine clinics as part of a larger commitment by Uber to provide up to 10 million free or discounted rides to vaccinations. Pilot transportation programs will begin in such cities as Chicago, Atlanta, Houston and El Paso, Texas.
- One-click access to pre-schedule rides on Uber when a Walgreens vaccination appointment is made.
- New in-app features designed to more seamlessly connect people, including active drivers, delivery people, and freight carriers using Uber, Uber Eats or Uber Freight, with vaccines when they become more readily available.
- A new educational program with the National Urban League to address vaccine hesitancy.
“Chicago Urban League is encouraged by Walgreens and Uber’s efforts to partner with organizations like ours that work tirelessly in the fight for equity and equality,” said Karen Freeman-Wilson, president and CEO of Chicago Urban League. “We look forward to collaborating with them to help ensure vaccines reach into communities of color more equitably.”
While nearly 80% of the U.S. population lives within 5 miles of a Walgreens pharmacy, the retailer has recently expanded different models of care to ensure the delivery of vaccines in underserved and rural areas, such as mobile and off-site clinics. Additionally, more than 70% of Walgreens COVID-19 testing sites are in socially vulnerable areas.
News of the Walgreens-Uber partnership to facilitate vaccine access follows the Biden administration’s announcement that it’s trying to fast-track overall vaccination efforts by routing doses from the federal government directly to pharmacies like Walgreens.
Deerfield, Illinois-based Walgreens is included in the Retail Pharmacy USA division of Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. The drug store chain operates more than 9,000 retail locations across the United States, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, serving about 8 million customers daily. Walgreens is No. 4 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2020 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America.