Politics

Uber, Lyft Will Give Free Rides to Vaccine Sites, Biden Says

President Biden said on Tuesday that Uber and Lyft, two of the country’s largest ride-sharing services, would provide free rides to vaccination sites beginning May 24, an agreement intended to help stem the declining pace of immunizations and reach his goal of at least partly inoculating 70 percent of American adults by July 4.

Mr. Biden said that the ride-sharing initiative would last until then.

In a meeting with a group of six governors from states including Ohio, Utah and Maine, he detailed other initiatives as well, including an effort to create vaccination sites at community colleges and another to send FEMA officials around the country to encourage people to receive a shot. The announcement marked an aggressive new phase of the administration’s efforts to combat vaccine hesitancy and expand access.

“We’re going to be able to take a serious step toward return to normalcy by Independence Day,” Mr. Biden said, referring to a benchmark he set in March. “And there’s a lot of work to do though to get there. But I believe we can get there.”

Though about 153 million people had received at least one vaccine shot in the United States as of Tuesday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the pace of vaccination has slowed in recent weeks.

Experts say they had expected the slowdown, but vaccine reluctance — in part stemming from an 11-day pause in administering the Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine — will remain a significant obstacle. Only a small percentage of Americans who have not yet been vaccinated say they will definitely do so, according to recent polls.

To encourage more shots in arms, some governors, including Jim Justice of West Virginia, have started to experiment with incentives that could sway reluctant or uninterested Americans: Last month, Mr. Justice said the state would give $100 savings bonds to young people who get vaccinated, though officials are still trying to work out the details of the program. In New York, officials are offering free rail and subway tickets with vaccinations.

The governors who met virtually with the president on Tuesday had ideas of their own. Gov. Janet Mills of Maine told Mr. Biden that the state would offer vouchers to L.L. Bean, free fishing and hunting licenses, and tickets to local sporting events as incentives.

“We’re calling this ‘your shot to get outdoors,’” Ms. Mills said. “Oh, it’s corny, I know, but we know that people in Maine found refuge in relief and Mother Nature throughout the pandemic.”

Mr. Biden seemed amused by the idea, replying, “My guess is that’s probably going to work.”

Gov. Mike DeWine of Ohio said that the Ohio National Guard had set up small vaccination stations at nursing homes around the state. Gov. Spencer Cox of Utah said that pop-up clinics were appearing at churches and that health officials were working with clergy members to communicate information about the vaccines to congregants.

Mr. Cox also praised the move by the Food and Drug Administration to authorize the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children 12 to 15 years old: “Mr. President, we’re really good at having kids here, so we’re excited to have that opportunity,” he said.

McDonald’s said it was partnering with the Biden administration on a campaign to promote vaccination. Starting in July, coffee cups and delivery stickers will direct users to vaccines.gov and include messaging from the “We Can Do This” national campaign.

States and counties have already been getting creative with incentives. New Jersey offered a “shot and a beer” for residents who get their first vaccine dose in May and visit participating breweries in the state. In Erie County, New York, Buffalo-area breweries doubled as vaccination clinics, giving away a free beer to those who get a shot, WBFO reported. Suffolk County on Long Island is trying something similar.

“We got 10 times more people to get vaccinated with their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine in just a few hours at a brewery than we would have if we had been sitting in one of our full-time clinics for 12 hours,” Mark Poloncarz, the Erie County executive, told WBFO.



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