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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Instacart has asked public health authorities to include its workers as part of the essential workers who'll get COVID-19 vaccines, according to letters it provided to Axios. Uber, Lyft and DoorDash have made similar requests in recent days.

Why it matters: These workers are disproportionately bearing more exposure and risk than many of their customers, who have the luxury of staying home and having their groceries and food delivered.

Yes, but: The companies have actively fought not to classify their workers as employees, which would give them full benefits, such as health care coverage and sick leave.

  • The companies have provided workers with some safety supplies throughout the pandemic and limited pay if they get sick with the virus, but workers have complained of problems in accessing these resources.
  • Instacart is sending letters to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as all 50 governors.

Between the lines: Getting their workers vaccinated earlier rather than later could help the companies' bottom lines if more drivers feel comfortable giving rides and doing deliveries, and if it makes ride-hailing passengers more comfortable booking rides.

The bottom line: It remains to be seen what the states, which are in charge of doling out the vaccines, will do and how they would provide shots to gig workers given that many of them don't work a set number of hours and they often work for multiple companies.

Go deeper

Updated Jan 22, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Biden to attempt "emergency economic relief" by executive order

President Biden. Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

President Biden will continue his executive action blitz on Friday, issuing two more orders in an attempt to provide immediate relief to struggling families without waiting for Congress.

Why it matters: In his second full day in office, Biden is again resorting to executive actions as he tries to increase payments for nutritional assistance and protect workers' rights during the pandemic.

OIG: HHS misused millions of dollars intended for public health threats

Vaccine vials. Photo: Punit Paranjpe/AFP via Getty Images

The U.S. Office of Special Counsel alerted the White House and Congress on Wednesday of an investigation that found the Department of Health and Human Services misused millions of dollars that were budgeted for vaccine research and public health emergencies for Ebola, Zika and now the COVID-19 pandemic.

Why it matters: The more than 200-page investigation corroborated claims from a whistleblower, showing the agency's violation of the Purpose Statute spanned both the Obama and Trump administrations and paid for unrelated projects like salaries, news subscriptions and the removal of office furniture.

John Kerry: U.S.-China climate cooperation is a "critical standalone issue"

President Biden's special climate envoy John Kerry said Wednesday that the U.S. must deal with China on climate change as a "critical standalone issue," but stressed that confronting Beijing's human rights and trade abuses "will never be traded" for climate cooperation.

Why it matters: The last few years have brought about a bipartisan consensus on the need for the U.S. to confront China's aggression. But as the world's largest greenhouse gas emitter, China will be a vital player if the world is going to come close to reining in emissions on the scale needed to meet the Paris Agreement goals of limiting warming to 2°C above pre-industrial levels.