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Your Uber ride to get a coronavirus vaccine might be free

Published Dec 20th, 2020 9:02AM EST
Coronavirus Vaccine
Image: terovesalainen/Adobe

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  • As coronavirus vaccinations have started in the US, Uber announced it would offer free or discounted Uber rides to people seeking vaccination.
  • Some 10 million rides will be offered in the promotion, but it’s unclear when the offer will start.
  • The promo will include a round-trip to the vaccination site for each of the two doses.

The historic coronavirus vaccination campaigns have started in mid-December, about a year after COVID-19 was discovered in China. The UK was the first nation to begin administering the Pfizer/BioNTech drug to at-risk groups of people, and the US followed a week later. America might be the first country in the world to approve two COVID-19 vaccines that have completed Phase 3 trials, as Moderna already received an emergency use recommendation from an independent review panel. China has been using vaccines outside trials for months. Russia did it even before releasing any scientific data about its hastily approved vaccines.

A variety of technological advances made possible the approval of the first COVID-19 vaccines in record time. The BioNTech and Moderna drugs are only two of about a dozen vaccines that have reached Phase 3 trials worldwide, and hundreds of other ideas have been registered this year. The early sequencing of the SARS-CoV-2 genome allowed researchers to work on a vaccine much faster than before. Companies have started planning the manufacturing and logistics during the Phase 1-3 trials, rather than after the approvals were obtained, in a bid to improve delivery times. The side-effect to all of that is public mistrust, fueled in part by a variety of toxic campaigns spreading fake news about vaccines on social media. As some people with malicious intentions are trying to hinder vaccination campaigns, others are looking to provide support. Uber is on the right side of vaccines.

The company announced it will offer 10 million free or discounted rides to people who are seeking COVID-19 vaccination. The package include rides to and from the destination, and rides for the second dose.

Most COVID-19 vaccines come with a two-dose regimen. The two shots will be given a few weeks apart. The BioNTech and Moderna vaccines also fall into that category. People who are vaccinated receive special cards that note the vaccine type, the date of the first shot, and the schedule for the second. While research shows that some immunity starts to build up after the first injection, people are advised to return for the second dose, even if they experience side-effects after the first one.

Currently, only healthcare workers and permanent residents of care facilities qualify for coronavirus vaccines, as the supply is limited. As more doses are manufactured, other groups of people will qualify for vaccination. By April, most Americans who will want a vaccine will be able to get one, assuming everything runs smoothly.

Uber has not revealed when the free or discounted rides promotion will begin. It’s likely the promotion will benefit categories of people who can’t get the vaccine right now.

Uber announced it has partnered with organizations serving communities of color, including the National Urban League, the Morehouse School of Medicine, and the National Action Network, to target riders who would benefit the most.

“We hope our technology can help make the largest-ever global immunization campaign a success and deliver the benefits of the vaccine quickly, effectively, and equitably,” Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said in a statement.

COVID-19 impacted minorities disproportionately, various studies have shown. Vaccine makers were required to recruit a diverse group of people for the ample Phase 3 trials to study the effects of vaccines on a sample reflective of reality.

It’s unclear whether any of Uber’s free and discounted rides will be available outside the US. The ride-sharing app did a similar thing in March, offering 10 million free rides and deliveries to health care workers and seniors in America. Health experts say that COVID-19 herd immunity can be attained once more than 70% of the population is vaccinated.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.