Searching for vaccine information? Google wants to make it easier to find

Google plans to highlight local information on vaccine availability through its search engine, starting with the states of Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. Photo credit: Google

As the U.S. continues with a rocky rollout of the first two coronavirus vaccines, people are grappling with confusion on when and where to get vaccinated. As most states move from vaccinating healthcare workers to older adults, plans vary across state and county lines on who is eligible and how vaccines are distributed.

Seniors reportedly faced five-hour long lines to get their first dose at mass drive-in vaccine sites in Delaware, and in other states, wait times to book an appointment over the phone are just as long. Since the beginning of January, Google searches for “vaccines near me” have increased fivefold.

The search giant plans to roll out more localized answers for that question in the coming weeks, CEO Sundar Pichai shared in a blog post. Starting with Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas, Google will share the locations of vaccination sites along with information such as whether an appointment is required, or if the site is drive-thru. It will also provide a notification if vaccines are limited to certain groups, which is currently the case across all states.

Since information on the vaccine rollout changes quickly, Google will work with VaccineFinder, an initiative by Boston Children’s Hospital that pulls information from local health departments, as well as other government agencies and retail pharmacies.

The company also plans to open vaccination clinics at its offices in San Francisco and Los Angeles, through a partnership with concierge primary care company One Medical.

Another big part of Google’s push will be to promote accurate information about vaccines and encourage equitable access. The company is giving $100 million in ad grants to the CDC Foundation, the World Health Organization, and other nonprofits. It plans to give another $50 million to public health agencies to reach underserved communities.

Early data shows that the vaccine rollout has been less than equal. In Colorado, for example, fewer Black and Latino residents received vaccines. While Latinos represent nearly 22% of Colorado’s population, they account for just 4% of people in the state who have gotten vaccines, according to Colorado Public Radio.

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