Facebook is launching a Covid-19 vaccine finder to help people get shots in their arms.
CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced the new tool in a Facebook post, saying it "shows you when and where you can get vaccinated, and gives you a link to make an appointment." The vaccine finder is located in the newsfeed's Covid Information Center, which is also expanding to Instagram.
The tool provides Facebook users with the locations of Covid-19 vaccination sites in their neighborhood, hours of operation, contact information and links to make an appointment. The tool draws location info from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Vaccine Finder.
For now, the vaccine finder is only available in the U.S., though it's accessible in 71 languages. Facebook plans to expand to other countries as vaccines become more widely available.
The vaccine finder is similar to Facebook's blood donation feature, which helps users find places to donate blood in their area and get notifications when a nearby blood donation center may be in need.
Zuckerberg also said the tech giant is expanding the use of chatbots on its messaging service WhatsApp so that governments and health authorities can register people for vaccines. For example, in Buenos Aires, city officials will use a WhatsApp chatbot to notify patients when they are eligible to receive the vaccine.
Facebook partnered with Boston Children's Hospital to develop the new tool. In a statement, the hospital's chief innovation officer John Brownstein noted, "Improving vaccine access and equity across the country will be a critical step in achieving herd immunity and bringing this pandemic to a close."
According to USA Today, about 21 percent of people in the U.S. have received at least one shot and about 11.3 percent of people are fully vaccinated.
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