State-specific COVID-19 vaccine information is confusing. Facebook says it can help

The social media giant will begin notifying its users when they become eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine in their state.
By Mallory Hackett
10:46 am
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Photo by Facebook

As states begin to open up vaccine eligibility to all adults, Facebook will begin to notify its users and connect them with state-specific information about how to get an appointment, the company announced this week.

Once a state declares the general public eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine, Facebook will show a notification in the News Feed section to the state’s users and direct them to their health department or to its Vaccine Finder tool.

The social media giant says it is already notifying people in Alaska, Mississippi, Texas and Utah. It has plans to roll the COVID-19 vaccine-eligibility notifications across the entire country and globally as more nations expand their vaccine effort.

For people who speak Spanish, the site will notify them in their preferred language and direct them to their state’s Spanish-language website, if available.

WHAT’S THE IMPACT?

Facebook reworked its notification strategy from the 2020 U.S. presidential election to bring these COVID-19 vaccine notifications to life, it said. Since both voting and the vaccine rollout are handled by state and local authorities, it was able to switch the notifications for registering to vote and for mail-in-voting deadlines to notifications for vaccine eligibility.

Ultimately, Facebook hopes that working with state governments to align its notifications with vaccine availability will help to keep demand at bay and the systems running smoothly. 

So far, the U.S. has administered more than 192 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines, with nearly 23% of the total population fully vaccinated, according to CDC data.

Although the speed of vaccine administration has increased over recent months, many people are still struggling to find an appointment. Reports of open vaccine appointments filling up too quickly and overwhelming the system continue throughout the country.

THE LARGER TREND

Back in March, Facebook rolled out a number of tools to help people find vaccines near them and to help stop the spread of vaccine misinformation.

Earlier in the pandemic, the social media site released a series of maps used to track the potential spread of COVID-19. One shows the probability of running into other Facebook users in public. Another shows whether or not people are staying near home on a county-by-county level. The last map examines Facebook connections (i.e. Facebook friends) across geographic lines.

Over the course of the pandemic, numerous tech companies have lent their expertise to the vaccine effort.

Google recently added a new vaccine information and location-search tool. Apple updated its products to allow users to search Apple Maps or ask Siri about available vaccine locations. A new name in the space, Dr. B, lent its hand by connecting eligible patients to providers with extra vaccine doses.

 

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