Uber and the pharmaceutical company Moderna announced a partnership around COVID-19 vaccination, which will include a number of different initiatives. To begin with, its only confirmed component is to provide users with reliable and objective information about the safety of the COVID-19 vaccine through Uber’s consumer application, but the companies also discussed additional “options,” including scheduling travel through Uber directly at the time of booking the vaccination appointment.
Still in its early stages, the U.S. COVID-19 vaccination program is already fraught with challenges, including providing timely access to vaccines to populations most in need. The program also has to deal with misinformation that is rampant in social networks about vaccine safety, and any application like Uber has the opportunity to get positive messages and accurate information in front of many people, so that’s good news in itself.
But one of the most real challenges to an effective vaccination campaign remains logistical, and getting people to make their initial and follow-up appointments for the first round of the Modern vaccine and their second booster shot is a greater challenge than many may suspect. Healthvana Executive Director Ramin Bastani spoke about his work with Los Angeles County in creating an immunization registry that integrates with the Apple Wallet to provide patients with timely information and reminders about vaccination appointments. Integrating a transportation booking service or appointment reminder directly into the Uber application, which most users already have on their phone anyway, could be another very effective way to increase success rates for first and follow-up vaccination visits.
Uber has already offered free and discounted travel to help reduce the friction of getting out and about and getting a vaccine, but product-level integration could do much more than that by providing easy and friendly access. As noted, this is still only one of the options being discussed, but if Uber and Moderna are willing to commit to printing, that at least means they are serious about trying to find a way.