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Uber launches U.S. vaccine rides program in White House partnership

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By Tina Bellon 

  May 24 (Reuters) - Uber Technologies Inc on Monday launched its COVID-19 vaccine rides program in partnership with the White House, offering all Americans an up to $25 discount for each of their trips to and from a vaccination site. 

  Customers who have booked a vaccine appointment can request a ride through the Uber app and either incur no charges if the trip costs less than $25, or receive a $25 discount for their journey, the company said. 

  Drivers will receive the full payment for the trip, Uber said. 

  With two of the three COVID-19 vaccines available in the United States requiring two separate shots, Uber would pay a maximum of $100 per passenger under the program. A company spokesman said Uber does not have an estimate for the number of vaccine rides it expects to provide. 

  U.S. President Joe Biden two weeks ago announced the partnership with Uber and its rival Lyft Inc in an effort to boost COVID-19 vaccination rates at a time when U.S. demand for vaccines has declined. 

  Many states are offering incentives, from free food and drinks to a chance at winning a lottery, in order to get more Americans to roll up their sleeves for a COVID-19 shot. 

  Biden has set a target of getting 70% of U.S. adults inoculated by July 4 so the country can be safely reopened for celebrations and small Independence Day holiday gatherings. As of Thursday, 48% of Americans have received at least one vaccine dose, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

  For Uber and Lyft, the vaccine efforts also come as the companies seek to have drivers and riders return to the road and recover revenue lost during the pandemic. 

  Lyft has said customers booking a vaccine ride will receive a $15 discount per trip. 

  The nationwide rides discounts build on existing vaccination programs Uber and Lyft launched at the end of last year to assist vulnerable communities lacking healthcare and transportation access. (Reporting by Tina Bellon Editing by Bill Berkrot)