“Here’s to Freedom Over Mandates”: Drivers Disagree About Vaccine Mandates

In the United States, just under 50% of the US population is fully vaccinated. With the number of cases rising in some areas worse than any other time during the pandemic, it leads to the question of why so few have got vaccinated.

As reporter Lauren Gurley notes, “Many Amazon warehouse workers remain unvaxed– even as COVID cases soar in their warehouses.

I spoke to the unvaxed about why they’re not getting the vaccine. Their reasoning: distrust of gov’t, lack of incentive & the perception they’re in good health.”

But what about Uber and Lyft drivers? Should they be mandated to get the vaccine and, if so, would that encourage or discourage them to drive?

We surveyed over 80 drivers and spoke individually with 13 drivers to find out what they have to say.

Reasons People Are Not Getting The Vaccine

Of our 83 participants, 43 of them say that Uber and Lyft should not require vaccines. Some of that 44 already had been vaccinated, they just felt a company shouldn’t require people to get vaccinated.

Here are some of the reasons that people are not getting vaccinated.

The Most Overwhelming Response? People Don’t Trust the Government

While drivers who answered “no” to “Should Uber and Lyft require vaccines for drivers?” had a variety of reasons, one that was repeated throughout the survey and our interviews was a general distrust of the United States government.

Several drivers who wanted to share their thoughts expressed distrust in the government: they referenced a “rushed” rollout of the vaccine (which was found to be incorrect), concerns about “Big Pharma”, and fears of “long term effects” of the vaccine.

One of the drivers we interviewed said, “I don’t trust experimental rushed vaccines”. The vaccines were seemingly “rushed” because they wanted to get something out there to protect people as quickly as possible. That doesn’t mean everyone is going to trust it.

Some others expressed worry over the vaccines not being fully approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), although as of August 23, 2021, the Pfizer vaccine was granted full approval (Moderna has also applied for full approval as well).

Another driver shared that, while he got the vaccine to protect vulnerable family members, he still thinks there could be long-term effects:

“I think a vaccine pushed through in 9 months when it takes the FDA 15 YEARS to approve a vaccine, is dangerous and irresponsible!… I believe the vaccine could be very dangerous down the road.  We have no idea what side effects this vaccine will cause 5-10… even 15 years later!”

Lack Of Incentives

When I got my vaccine, Walgreens gave me and my wife both $5 gift cards for getting our vaccine with them. Other friends and family members who got the vaccine were also given incentives from their companies, from gift cards to cash!

On top of that, some companies are setting up clinics at work so people don’t even have to set up an appointment to go and get the vaccine.

Let’s face it: sometimes giving people money or other prizes to do something works. It might not be palatable to those who got the vaccine early in order to protect themselves and society at large, but if it works to reach herd immunity, it could be worth it.

Would Uber and Lyft offering incentives to drivers encourage them to get the vaccine? One driver who took our survey thinks it’s worth a try!

“Lyft and Uber should offer $$ incentives to get the vaccine. Other companies do. The only gig company i know of that has was Instacart, for only $25 after you gave 5 deliveries.”

Already In Good Health

Some drivers expressed their beliefs in their own health and wellness, and therefore their bodies’ abilitities to fight off COVID, as being enough.

One driver who said he wasn’t sure if Uber and Lyft should mandate vaccines for drivers said: “I do not believe people should be forced to get vaccine… I don’t do vaccines anyway and I never get sick because of my diet high in natural antibiotics.”

Some drivers stated diet and exercise is enough to avoid getting COVID (it’s not), and others stated only the elderly and sick are dying, anyway (they’re not the only ones dying).

Freedom to Choose

Many drivers, both in the survey and throughout our social media channels, have stated one of the reasons they prefer being independent contractors is the ability to choose almost everything: when they drive, how long they drive for – and whether or not they have to get the COVID vaccine.

As this driver states:

“The decision to be vaccinated should remain a CHOICE, especially considering we are considered independent contractors. It’s understandable if masks mandates make another crack down in light of the new variants but nobody should have this choice taken out of their hands and the decision made for them.”

Another driver stated being required to get the vaccine in order to drive would force them to leave driving altogether:

“No one should be mandated to do anything regarding this issue. And if Uber mandates it, you’ll be losing me as a driver. My employment should not be based on a personal health decision.

And as one driver summed up these feelings: “Here’s to freedom over mandates.”

Reasons People Have Got Vaccinated

Though we had 43 people say Uber and Lyft should not require vaccines, we had 41 say they feel they should. Most of those also stated passengers, too, should be required to be vaccinated.

Here were the two biggest reasons that people shared:

Protect Themselves

While many drivers are aware of ways to keep themselves healthy on the road, some drivers simply have health problems out of their control. It could be anything from asthma to cancer and everything in between, but the bottom line is drivers want to be protected – and getting the vaccine helps keep them safer from COVID.

Getting the vaccine also encouraged some drivers to return to driving, alleviating the driver shortage Uber, Lyft and other gig companies are worried about:

“I stopped driving for 14 months and didn’t return until May when I had been 3 weeks past my second vaccination. Fortunately, Uber was not my primary source of income, so it was my choice to stop driving and also my choice to get vaccinated and then return to driving.”

For many of them, and those who we surveyed, their solution is to get the vaccine as early as possible. One of those we surveyed even signed up for the trials in order to get the vaccine sooner rather than later.

Protect Loved Ones

Though people care about themselves and their own health, what people care more about than anything else is other people. Many drivers have family members who are immune-compromised or other underlying health conditions, so getting the vaccine was no brainer.

One driver expressed dismay and disappointment in his fellow Americans for being so casual about a disease that can and has killed hundreds of thousands. In addition to being casual about people’s lives, this driver noted the prevalence of the disease and its variants has impacted his livelihood:

“I’ve had friends and family get seriously ill and some have died. I am very upset how passengers have such a casual attitude about this issue and driver safety and safety of the driver’s family. Some of us drivers care for sick and old family members. We need to work but we don’t want to bring illness home.”

And as reader and driver John sums it up: vaccines are not new; they’re an incredible development in a modern society that has prevented hundreds of thousands of people worldwide from dying from preventable diseases.

“Imagine if the polio vaccine were not mandated? Imagine the situation worldwide. We are dealing with a serious pandemic, one that requires ALL people to be vaccinated in order to wipe out or slow the spread to eventually make it history. Hopefully, we will have a booster as well.”

Looking To The Future

Every time it looks like this virus is going to be gone by the weekend, something new happens. A new variant, new outbreak, more deaths. I’m sure I’m not the only one who is tired of hearing about coronavirus and wish it would just go away!

However, part of getting it to go away is, at the very least, social distancing still, wearing masks and getting vaccinated if you can.

Until then, coronavirus will continue to dominate the news, new variants will develop, and we’ll go through an endless cycle of shut downs and mask mandates – and worse.

What do you think about a vaccine mandate for gig workers? While improbable, would you support it in theory?

-Tyler @ RSG