Biden Announces Free Rides, Partnerships to Boost Vaccination
(Bloomberg) -- President Joe Biden announced new efforts to vaccinate more of the nation -- including an expansion of free rides from Uber Technologies Inc. and Lyft Inc. -- as many Americans’ reluctance to get inoculated threatens to encumber the nation’s recovery from the pandemic.
“Americans from every walk of life are getting their vaccines,” Biden said during a virtual meeting with governors from states including Massachusetts, Utah, Ohio, New Mexico, Maine and Minnesota. “We’ve got to do more, though.”
Biden has said the U.S. is in a new phase of its vaccination campaign as domestic demand weakens. The country is administering about 2.1 million shots a day, down from 3.4 million about a month ago, even though there’s enough supply to give more.
But coronavirus cases are falling at an even faster pace than vaccinations. The U.S. reported 21,767 new cases on Sunday, the lowest daily total since June 2020. In early April, the country was still averaging more than 60,000 new cases a day, according to federal data.
Lyft and Uber will offer free rides through July 4 to anyone going to get vaccinated in the U.S., the White House said on Tuesday. It’s an expansion of programs they were providing to some low-income users in cooperation with pharmacies and non-profits.
The Biden administration and its federal pharmacy partners are seeking to start on-site vaccination clinics at community colleges in a bid to inoculate students, staff and those in nearby communities. The White House said it had selected community colleges because of the diversity of their student populations.
Dara Khosrowshahi, Uber’s chief executive officer, and John Zimmer, Lyft’s president, urged Americans to get vaccinated in separate statements confirming the expanded programs.
The pool of people who will eagerly seek out a vaccine appointment is all but exhausted, leading the government to shift its attention to those willing to take it but who don’t want to go out of their way.
The administration’s moves include winding down mass vaccination clinics while steering more shots to rural and mobile sites. Some states are offering incentives: West Virginia Governor Jim Justice has proposed giving a $100 savings bond to anyone age 16-35 who gets a shot, while leaders in New Jersey, New Orleans and Washington, D.C., have offered beers and shots of liquor.
“We always expected we’d be in a different phase,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Monday. “And it means we have to work extra hard to get into communities, to have partnerships with local doctors, with primary care physicians, to expand access, expand mobile units that are going into communities to get the supply out to people.”
Biden and his team have repeatedly dismissed any suggestion of requiring vaccination or creating a federal registry of people who have received shots, instead focusing on increasing information about vaccine safety and efficacy and access to shots.
Biden’s latest target calls for 70% of U.S. adults to receive at least one shot by July 4; about 58% have gotten one as of now.
Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a top Biden medical adviser, said reaching the president’s target likely will prevent major flare-ups later this year.
“The larger proportion of the population that’s vaccinated, the less likelihood that in a season like the coming fall or winter you’re going to see a significant surge,” Fauci said on NBC’s “Meet The Press” on Sunday.
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