Thursday, October 21, 2021

Moderna hitches a ride with Uber to boost vaccine confidence—and, of course, drive access

COVID-19 vaccine maker Moderna is looking for a lift from Uber—a collaboration lift, that is. The two companies say they’re planning to work together to promote vaccine confidence and ease access to coronavirus shots.

Early ideas include promoting vaccine safety on the Uber network and through in-app messages as well as incorporating Uber rides into the vaccination scheduling process.

While those details are still in the works, the appeal of Uber as a partner for Moderna is not only its nationwide network and connections but also the diversity of its 1.2 million drivers.

“Uber has broad access across the United States—its ride-sharing platform is used by Americans everywhere, and its drivers represent a wide variety of the population,” Michael Mullette, Moderna’s vice president of commercial operations in North America, said. “There’s a great opportunity for us to think about educating the population about how do you get immunized … but also how do you access credible information about vaccines.”

The deal comes amid a U.S. vaccine rollout hobbled by confusion, lack of centralized government planning and distribution headaches. Even when vaccines are readily available and easy to access, fear is hampering uptake, thanks to the unprecedented speed of vaccine development, historical abuse of the Black community in biomedical research and more generalized anti-vaxxer sentiment.

RELATED: Fierce JPM Week: Moderna could join top vaccine players by sales this year, CEO says

Last month, Uber pledged 10 million free or discounted rides for underserved populations who may have difficulty with transportation to get vaccines. The company is partnering with the National Urban League, the Morehouse School of Medicine and the National Action Network to focus on communities of color where people have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19.

Moderna’s goal is similarly to provide widespread access and prioritize reaching underserved groups and people who are vaccine hesitant, Mullette said.

“I think we’ve all noticed over the past few weeks is that making vaccines and immunizing people are two different things,” he said.

RELATED: Moderna poaches Amgen vet as CCO, jump-starting commercial team as it rolls out COVID-19 vaccine

Uber is the first of what will be a coalition of go-to-market partners for Moderna. As Mullette noted, the company is small—tens of people, not tens of thousands, are mounting its response—and partners will help amplify its voice.

The biotech is also weighing team-ups with retail locations, gyms and any other lifestyle and internet companies where people live their daily lives. Moderna is fielding calls every day from companies with offers of technology or platforms to support the vaccine rollout, Mullette said.

In the end, “we’re just going to have to pick a few of the one that we feel we can have a great relationship with and think like-minded,” he said.

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