NEW YORK: Ride-hailing major Uber has sent letters to every US governor to give its drivers and delivery people priority when it comes to distributing the Covid-19 vaccine, saying that they are essential workers.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended the first batch of vaccines go to health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities, with essential workers — including those in transportation — following in a second phase.
According to a report from The Verge, it’s up to each state to decide the specifics of their vaccine distribution plan.
“After nine months on the frontlines keeping their communities running, we are asking governors in all 50 states to prioritize drivers and delivery people for early vaccine access,” Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi was quoted as saying to The Verge.
The report also said that the Uber made a similar appeal to the CDC earlier this week, saying in a letter that early access to a Covid-19 vaccine “would help drivers and delivery people continue to play their essential role while also reducing the risk that they may inadvertently contract, or possibly transmit the virus.”
In the letter to state governors, Khosrowshahi argued that Uber can use their services to remove transportation barriers faced by individuals who will need to travel to their vaccination appointments.
Both letters point to the use of Uber by health care workers, restaurants, and people relying on delivery to stay at home during the pandemic.
While Uber is asking for its workers to be considered essential, the company has long been criticized for repeatedly fighting to classify those same drivers as contractors rather than employees.
Meanwhile, a high-powered US vaccine advisory panel endorsed mass use of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine, putting the country just one step away from a historic vaccination campaign against a virus that has killed more than 292,000 Americans.
The US Food and Drug Administration is expected to follow the panel’s recommendation anytime now, setting the stage for the largest vaccination drive in America’s history.