President Joe Biden announced last week that every American adult will be eligible for a coronavirus vaccine by May 1st. The Biden administration wants America to be “getting closer to normal” by the Fourth of July, and with around six million vaccine doses having been administered last weekend alone, that seems like it could be a viable goal. There is one major obstacle standing in the way, though: Getting everyone an appointment.
Over the past few weeks, vaccine supply has increased substantially, but even when the rules determining who could get a shot were stricter, it was still a challenge to book an appointment. Here in New York, countless people have had to rely on Twitter accounts that send out updates whenever appointments open up. These slots are often filled within seconds, and if you aren’t quick enough, you have to wait for the next tweet. It’s an imperfect system, but now the biggest social media platform in existence wants to help ease the friction.
On Monday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that his site is launching a global campaign “to help bring 50 million people a step closer to getting Covid-19 vaccines.” The first step in accomplishing its goal will be launching a COVID-19 Information Center, which you can actually check out right now. In addition to offering updates from news sources and health departments all around the US, Facebook’s Information Center also has a tool that provides users with contact information and hours of operation for locations in their area with vaccine doses.
If you’re skeptical about using Facebook to find a vaccine appointment, you should know that all of the information in the tool is pulled from VaccineFinder.org — developed by the CDC, Harvard Medical School, and Boston Children’s Hospital. In fact, John Brownstein, CIO of Boston Children’s Hospital, even offered this quote:
We are thrilled to be joining forces with Facebook to build tools that aim to support consumers in their search for COVID-19 vaccines. Improving vaccine access and equity across the country will be a critical step in achieving herd immunity and bringing this pandemic to a close.
Beyond helping people find vaccination appointments, Facebook is also expanding its COVID-19 Information Center to Instagram, which is also up and running globally as of March 15th. Here’s the gist:
In the US, UK, France, Germany, India and Chile specifically, this new feature helps people access reliable information from trusted health experts based on their location, including: who is eligible for the vaccine, information about prevention from trusted health organizations, and content disproving common vaccine myths. In the weeks to come, we will add more information to help people find out where they can get vaccinated, the number of COVID-19 cases in their area, and more.
Finally, to reach even more individuals, Facebook is teaming up with health authorities and governments around the world to get people registered for vaccinations by sending them messages on WhatsApp. All these efforts combined could help millions of people get their shots that might not have otherwise.