Ride-sharing giants Uber and Lyft have been in touch with the incoming Biden administration for a role in the COVID-19 vaccine distribution plans, CBS News confirms. Both companies have asked for early access to the vaccine for their drivers, given their status as essential workers, and they're offering to transport vulnerable Americans to vaccine centers for free. The Wall Street Journal first reported the move by the two companies.
Lyft executives met with the Biden transition in late December and the company's vice president of healthcare, Megan Callahan, told CBS News "we expect to reengage" in the coming weeks.
"What we want to speak with them about is that there are existing vehicles that the Biden administration will have to ensure that people that need it can get to their vaccine appointments," Callahan said. She said that Lyft estimates 16 million Americans won't have access to transportation to their vaccine appointments.
The Biden transition team did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Data from the American Public Transportation Association says that 45% of Americans have no access to public transportation.
"We are seeing that transportation to vaccines is widely overlooked," Callahan said. "There are a lot of moving pieces with a nationwide vaccination program, and what we're trying to do is raise awareness around transportation."
In December, Lyft offered 60 million free and discounted rides for people to and from vaccine sites. Callahan said that program will continue for as long as it's needed.
She also said Lyft also has "a lot of efforts going into ensuring" that when its drivers are eligible for vaccinations, the company will have a "streamlined way" of getting them vaccinated. "We shouldn't have to ask for any extra favor, but I do want to make it as easy for them as possible," Callahan said.
A Lyft spokesperson confirmed that drivers who have tested positive for the coronavirus may return to work if they have clearance from a doctor or their public health department saying they have satisfied quarantine requirements.
Uber, which also committed to 10 million free rides and food delivers for healthcare workers, seniors, and people in needs, is also seeking vaccine access for its drivers.
"We are advocating for rideshare drivers and delivery people to receive early access vaccinations" because of their status as essential workers, CEO Dara Khosrowshahi wrote in a letter to President-elect Joe Biden, obtained by CBS News.
Khosrowshahi wrote that Uber is looking forward to "partnering" with the Biden administration and stands ready to "help move people and goods safely."
"We also believe that we can use our technology and reach to remove transportation barriers faced by individuals who will need to travel to their vaccination appointments, especially those in higher-risk groups and in communities of color," Khosrowshahi wrote in a letter to Biden.
Uber is also promising to use its platform to share information about the COVID-19 vaccine and provide practice guidance on how and where eligible people can get vaccinated.