Google is stepping to the plate to provide users with the most current information about COVID vaccine availability in their area. The Silicon Valley powerhouse announced the updates in a blog post by CEO Sundar Pichai. The company is also pledging at least $150 million to "promote vaccine education and equitable distribution and making it easier to find locally relevant information, including when and where to get the vaccine." In addition to the donations and updated information, Google is volunteering its locations as vaccinations sites in areas where additional sites are needed.
In response to the increase in vaccine-related queries on its search engine, Google is adding panels to the searches with locally relevant information, including who is eligible for a vaccine, where to get it, and safety information. According to KRON4, the first states to receive these updates on Google Maps will be Arizona, Texas, Mississippi, and Louisiana. The updates will be coming soon, but Google declined to provide an exact date.
The Mountain View-based company is working with "authoritative sources," including local governments, pharmacy chains, and Vaccinefinder.org, run by Boston Children's Hospital.
The new efforts include $100 million to help the CDC, World Health Organization, and nonprofits run ads through the company's Ad Grants Crisis Relief program. The Ad Grants program helps nonprofits spread their message by providing in-kind text ads. The focus of these additional grants will go towards creating a more equitable distribution of the vaccine.
"Our efforts will focus heavily on equitable access to vaccines," Google says in the blog post. "Early data in the US shows that disproportionately affected populations, especially people of color and those in rural communities, aren't getting access to the vaccine at the same rates as other groups."
The remaining $50 million will go to public health agencies that work within underserved communities that have less access to the vaccine than more affluent areas. One of the recipients is Morehouse School of Medicine's Satcher Health Leadership Institute. The company hopes its efforts will help bring equitable vaccination rates to areas with "racial and geographic disparities in COVID-19 vaccinations."
Google wants to help clear up confusion among Americans about vaccine availability, since it varies widely at the state and county levels. The Mercury News reports that a majority of Americans aren't sure about whether they are eligible yet, or where to receive the vaccine.
To streamline information about the vaccines, Google and Google Maps will feature vaccination sites and local regulations for queries related to "vaccine near me." New panels will tell users whether they need an appointment, whether sites are drive-thru or walk-up, and if they are eligible.
Where possible, Google is willing to let local agencies use its sites to administer the vaccine. The company is working with One Medical, which has multiple locations in San Francisco and the Bay Area, to create vaccination locations in Google's parking lots and office buildings. The locations will begin converting to vaccination locations in California, Washington, and New York City before spreading to Google offices around the country.
Very few Americans have received the vaccine, and even fewer have completed both doses of Moderna's or Pfizer's vaccines. KTVU reports that only 1% of the US population is now fully vaccinated. Google is hoping its efforts help increase the number of Americans vaccinated.
"Getting vaccines to billions of people won't be easy, but it's one of the most important problems we'll solve in our lifetimes," the post concluded. "Google will continue to support in whatever way we can."