As the nation seeks to reach COVID-19 herd immunity, state public health and transportation agencies continue to strategize about how to increase access to the vaccine for their most vulnerable constituents. At the beginning of the pandemic, the CARES Act provided $25 billion to support the transit industry. These funds have been used to help state and local governments provide transportation to COVID-19 testing and vaccination sites. In addition, according to the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), “Several FTA funding programs can be used to support transportation services to and from COVID-19 vaccination sites and transit assets can support vaccination efforts as an incidental use.”
Elderly people in rural areas and people with disabilities face a number of barriers to vaccine access, with transportation often being a substantial obstacle. Whether it be due to lack of internet access and information, a complex registration system, a mobility impairment, or the difficulty of waiting in a long line, it is critical that states reduce the barriers to vaccination access for at-risk populations. Scott Bogren, Executive Director of the Community Transportation Association of America (CTAA), stated, “I can’t think of a more important job right now on the part of mobility providers all around the country than connecting at risk populations, rural populations with the vaccine.”
States have taken numerous measures to reduce transportation barriers to accessing vaccinations including mobile health clinics, ambulance services, ride sharing apps, and patient transport services. Another method states are using is partnering with state and local emergency management agencies (EMAs). A few examples of state and local transportation solutions:
- The Vermont Public Transportation Association (VPTA) funds Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant rides to individuals travelling to and from vaccination appointments. The rides are offered through regional public transportation providers.
- Nearly $2.5 million of COVID-19 relief funding in North Carolina is being provided to local transit authorities to provide transportation to vaccine appointments. North Carolinians can reach out to their local transit authority to set up a free ride to and from appointments for the person being vaccinated and any person assisting an individual being vaccinated.
- The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation offers free transportation to vaccination sites for the elderly and people with disabilities. The lottery and Act 44 fund these services through the Senior Shared Ride and Persons with Disabilities Program. Governor Tom Wolf shared, “I want to thank our transit authorities for eliminating barriers for these populations, not just throughout the pandemic, but every day.”
The National Center for Mobility Management (NCMM) is hosting a three-part webinar series “Mobilizing Transit and Public Health Partnerships for COVID-19 Vaccination.” NCMM is a national technical assistance center funded by the FTA. To learn more, tune in to NCMM’s upcoming webinars on March 24 and April 7 where other state and local efforts to provide transportation to vaccination sites will be discussed. Register here: https://nationalcenterformobilitymanagement.org/covid-19-resource-center/