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Beginning Friday, Santa Cruz METRO will offer free rides to people going to and from COVID-19 vaccine appointments, the company announced in a press release.

To get the free ride, passengers must show the operator proof of the vaccination appointment upon boarding. This “includes a photo, printout, or email of the confirmed appointment slot or vaccination card,” the bus service wrote.

ParaCruz riders will need to specify that they are going to and from a vaccination appointment when they are making the reservation to ensure they get the free ride.

RELATED: Where to get a vaccine (when it’s your turn) in Santa Cruz County

The free fare process will be touchless, and with the process of making payment removed, METRO says it will minimize contact between the operator and riders. Metro will still enforce physical distancing guidance onboard vehicles and continue to limit the number of passengers on board.

“By offering these free fares we hope to open up transportation options to our entire community in getting to these essential vaccination appointments,” said METRO CEO and General Manager Alex Clifford.

As of Friday, more than 76,000 doses of the vaccine had been doled out to Santa Cruz residents, according to a state dashboard. There has been concern about the equitable distribution of the vaccines in the county, with 44.5% of the doses being distributed to white people and only 18.2% of the doses being distributed to people of Hispanic/Latino descent despite the latter being the hardest-hit community.

Vaccine Watch

Lookout’s Vaccine Watch, the latest on vaccine distribution countywide, is among eight Lookout initiatives documenting all aspects of the pandemic. For more, go to our COVID 2021 section, sign up for COVID Text Alerts and our COVID PM newsletter here, and leave feedback and ask questions at the end of this story.

County EMS Medical Director Dr. David Ghilarducci, in a Thursday press conference, attributed the skewed numbers to Phase 1a rollout which gave priority to healthcare workers and nursing home residents. However, as the county expands eligibility to new occupation-based groups — including food and agricultural workers — these numbers are expected to change.

The county has previously discussed plans for mobile vaccination clinics to reach those who cannot travel to get vaccines. Officials have also suggested they will bus groups of people to vaccination sites.

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