There’s been plenty of talk about the free vaccine rides offered by Uber and Lyft until July 4, in order to reach the White House’s vaccination goal of administering at least one vaccine shot to 70% of the US adult population by that date. But what does this look like from the drivers’ side? How are drivers receiving these requests, and who is paying for them? RSG contributor Tyler Philbrook shares drivers’ perspectives and more.
March of 2020 will be a time I always remember.
I remember where I was the first time I realized how serious this “COVID thing” was. It was a Sunday and my religious services had been cut short so that we could go home and not risk catching it.
I then went out to eat with my friends and family where we discussed how crazy all this was. How maybe we shouldn’t all see each other for a few weeks until this is all over.
Over a year later, and I haven’t gone out to eat with those friends and family again, or even gone out to eat.
It’s been a rough year, and I’ve had it easy compared to most in the world. But, there is a light at the end of this dark tunnel.
The Light At The End Of The COVID Tunnel
Personal opinions aside, the vaccine is here, and though you would think that’s good news, many people are still unable to access the vaccine.
It’s not the cost, as the vaccine is free, but rather a lack of transportation.
In a recent White House partnership, Uber and lyft began offering free rides to vaccination sites (with a cap – read more about how to schedule a free vaccine ride here.)
In case you’re wondering: drivers will be paid by Uber and Lyft for these rides. The government is not funding or subsidizing these rides. While it is up to passengers to tip, drivers will definitely be paid for these rides.
One Problem? A Lack of Drivers
One big problem getting people to free vaccine appointments? A lack of drivers! We’ve covered the driver shortage before, and while signs are pointing to some drivers coming back, there’s still a major lack of available drivers.
However, for those hitting the road, there is good news! Many are making more than they ever have before.
Many who stopped did so not just because there was almost no demand when the pandemic started, but also because they felt unsafe. Many still feel that way.
However, if you have been vaccinated and feel safe, this is a great opportunity to get out there and make some money. Not only are there a lot of regular rides out there to get, but now you have rides that the passenger doesn’t pay for. Think of how many rides there will be and how much money you can make from it.
Also – the unofficial start to summer is here. If you’ve been on the fence about driving, all of these factors certainly point to at least logging on (or signing up) and driving.
For those still concerned about their personal safety, and rightfully so, there are a few things to consider.
First, passengers and drivers are still required to wear a mask. The passenger is required to sit in the back, and you can have sanitizer in the back for them, as well as some in the front with you.
Second, in order to get the vaccine, you have to not be feeling sick. If someone isn’t sick and is on their way to get the vaccine, it is very unlikely they currently have the illness. This means it’s unlikely they could give you something they don’t have.
Finally, nothing is 100% safe. This is true whether you’re picking up food, grocery shopping, or doing anything else. However, you can take steps to keep yourself as safe as possible. You cannot control what others are doing, but you can help people who are unable to get the vaccine do so and do so safely. This has been a long road for all of us, and you have a chance to help others.
The drivers that are available have some legitimate concerns. For instance, with these being free rides, will there be any tips?
With it being a credit (up to $15-25 off per ride), the answer is it would be up to the customer themselves if they want to add a tip. If they don’t do it in the app, they may do it with cash.
Another concern is where is the money for this coming from? Uber and Lyft are largely funding these rides themselves, with Lyft also partnering with other corporate sponsors to pay for these rides.
While many drivers I reached out to expressed skepticism, two drivers said they have given several free vaccine appointment rides with no problems. The drivers have not needed to wait for their passengers, as they just drop them off at the site and head off to another request.
According to one driver, Stan:
“I have given several vaccination rides. They have been great and work exactly like any Uber X ride. It makes me feel like I am really participating in the “Herd immunity” vaccination goal and I really feel like an “essential worker” while transporting clients. Passengers are really appreciative and their comments make me feel great that I drive for Uber.”
What Does The Future Hold
I still haven’t seen many friends in months, nor have I held or attended a dinner party. I wish I could tell you that this is over, that the vaccines will completely fix everything and it will be normal tomorrow. Unfortunately, I can’t – not yet at least.
What I can tell you is that you have a chance to help. If all of us do our part not only will we be moving forward to normalcy, but you’ll also make money on the way.
Have you given or taken a free vaccine appointment ride? What was your experience like?
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-Tyler @ RSG