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Cincinnati Metro Will Offer Free Rides Near Me to Encourage COVID-19 Vaccinations Again This Month

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Hop on the bus to get to a COVID-19 vaccination site in Cincinnati.Photo: Nick Swartsell

Time to hop back onto that COVID-19 vaccination train.

Or, bus, rather.

Cincinnati Metro and Access paratransit service once again will provide free rides this month to help riders reach coronavirus vaccine distribution locations throughout the region. Service will be free on all routes July 16-18 and again August 6-8.

The free rides are part of a partnership with Kroger Health and Kroger’s Cincinnati-Dayton division, a press release says. Kroger offers COVID-19 vaccines at its pharmacy locations, but riders don’t have to be heading that way to ride for free.

“Transportation plays a key role in ensuring all eligible populations have equal access to COVID-19 vaccinations,” Darryl Haley, Metro CEO and general manager, says in a press release. “Metro has been proud to play a role in helping a significant portion of our community get vaccinated by removing transportation as a hurdle and providing free rides.”

Ohioans must be at least 12 years old for the Pfizer vaccine and 18 years old for the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines. Parental consent is required for minors.

Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, Metro and Access have offered free ride days to encourage vaccination, including to help riders get to free vaccination pop-ups at Cintas Center in March and April. The ongoing effort has been funded through the “Rides for Community Immunity” program from the Ohio Department of Transportation. The program has provided $7 million in funding to Ohio’s 88 counties to help get the state’s most vulnerable populations transportation to vaccine locations.

In April, Hamilton County officials said that they were aiming to vaccinate at least 80% of eligible residents by July 4. While Hamilton County’s vaccination rate is greater than Ohio’s on the whole, it still falls well short several days after that deadline has passed. As of 5 p.m. July 8, only about 50% of Hamilton County residents have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and roughly 48% are fully vaccinated (Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two doses for full vaccination, while the Johnson & Johnson vaccine requires just one. Recipients are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after their final dose).

Hamilton County is among the most-vaccinated in Ohio, joining several northern counties in vaccination rates of 45% or higher. The B117 coronavirus variant had surged in many northern Ohio counties this spring.

Statewide, only 48% of Ohioans have begun their vaccination series, while only 44% have completed it, according to Ohio’s coronavirus dashboard. Ohio has a daily average of about 240 coronavirus cases, the New York Times reports.

Ohioans who are not vaccinated at all are among the most vulnerable to COVID-19, especially as the Delta variant continues to spread across the country, scientists say. In May and June, Ohio tried incentivizing COVID-19 vaccinations with Vax-a-Million drawings in which vaccinated residents could win $1 million or full-ride, four-year scholarships to in-state colleges and universities. Several Cincinnati-area residents were among the Vax-a-Million winners.

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