If you've been searching "Covid-19 vaccination site near me," know that Google Maps may become "the app for that," to borrow a phrase from Apple.
In a blog post (opens in new tab) authored by Google CEO Sundar Pichai, the search giant announced it would be highlighting COVID-19 vaccination locations in Google Search and Maps as a part of its initiatives to help the world get vaccinated. An included pair of screenshots shows results for Tucson, AZ, for the search "covid vaccine Tucson."
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Why Tucson? Google says Covid-19 vaccination site data will first arrive for four states: Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. Of course, that's not the end of it, as the post notes that there are "more states and countries to come."
The results will also highlight if there is an advance appointment required, if you need a referral, if vaccines are being distributed through a drive-through and if there are limitations on what kinds of patients can get the vaccine at the moment.
As for how Google ensuring all of this data is right, Google is not doing this alone. It's "working with partners like VaccineFinder.org, an initiative of Boston Children's Hospital," that is also working with the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Harvard Medical School. Government agencies and retail pharmacies are also going to be helping Google.
Distributing vaccination site information is critical at the moment, which makes it unfortunate that it's not going as well as it could right now. New York City Councilmember Mark Levine noted in an email to constituents that the city's own vaccine finder is "missing some private hospitals and State-run sites."
Google will also be adding "state and regional distribution information" to search results, to help people know when they're eligible for the vaccine.
Google fighting Covid-19 vaccine disinformation
Google's much bigger than search and maps, though, so the company also has a job to do to make sure the correct information about the Covid-19 vaccine is spread across its sites. So, to fight the spread of disinformation, Google has a Get The Facts campaign coming up that will spread across Google and YouTube, so that "authoritative information out to the public about vaccines."
Last July, Google announced it would ban ads (opens in new tab) from stories spreading Covid-19 related conspiracies. One could argue that Google could also hide or demonetize videos that spread false information about the vaccine, or deplatform those who create those videos.
Pichai's post also notes that Google's own "buildings, parking lots and open spaces" will be made available for vaccination sites. It's starting out in Kirkland, Washington and on the coasts, with Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay Area and New York City.