Illinois Uber drivers will now have access to a simpler process to schedule COVID-19 vaccination appointments through Walgreens.
The initiative stems from Uber and Walgreens’ partnership formed in early February to help COVID-19 vaccines become more accessible to underserved communities.
According to the Cook County Department of Public Health, ride-hailing service drivers are considered public transit workers and are eligible to be vaccinated in Phase 1B — which began Jan. 25 — along with first responders, educators, corrections workers, inmates and grocery store workers, among others.
Carrol Chang, Uber’s head of driver operations for the U.S. and Canada, said an authorization code sent to drivers and Uber Eats delivery people allows them to provide proof of eligibility and book a vaccine appointment through Walgreens’ existing scheduling system whenever a time slot is available.
Chang said the codes are meant to make the process easier to navigate for drivers. But it does not give Uber drivers priority access to vaccine appointments over others, Chang said.
Lyft spokesperson Julie Wood said the company has been advocating for drivers to receive vaccine eligibility since December and has created a web page to help drivers find information about how to get vaccinated in their state.
Jason Gross, vice president of mobility at Curb, a taxi app, said the company has thousands of Chicago drivers and communicates with them about vaccine eligibility status and safety guidelines.
“We ... provide drivers with the resources they need to get vaccinated, including information provided by the regulators such as dates, locations and codes needed to book appointments for the vaccine,” Gross said in an email to the Chicago Sun-Times.
Tom McFeely, communications manager with the county Health Department, said drivers are often overlooked and it is important they are vaccinated to stay healthy so they can offer rides to people who lack transportation.
“Nobody’s supposed to be jumping the line, because we have these people like [ride-hailing] drivers who need to get vaccinated first, because they’re in touch with more people [and] they’re providing essential services,” McFeely said. “We want them to be safe.”