Facebook has partnered with the Indian government to launch a vaccine tracker that allows users to locate nearby vaccination spots on the social media platform’s website and mobile app. The new tool comes after Facebook pledged a $10 Mn grant this week for emergency response efforts in response to the COVID-19 crisis in the country.
The vaccine tracker tool will allow users to discover and nearest vaccine centre locations and their hours of operation as shared by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW). The tracker tool will also aggregate and display walk-in options (for 45 years and above) along with a link to register on the Cowin portal and schedule vaccination appointments.
“Partnering with the Government of India, Facebook will begin rolling out its Vaccine Finder tool on the Facebook mobile app in India available in 17 languages to help people identify places nearby to get the vaccine,” Facebook said in a statement.
In addition, Facebook says that it is also partnering with organisations such as United Way, Swasth, Hemkunt Foundation, I Am Gurgaon, Project Mumbai and US-India Strategic Partnership Forum (USISPF) to deploy the funds announced to help augment critical medical supplies with over 5,000 oxygen concentrators and other life-saving equipment like ventilators, BiPAP machines and to increase hospital bed capacity.
The social media giant has also pledged to support various NGOs and UN agencies in the country with free ad credits and insights to reach out to people struck by the pandemic in the country. Using the ad credits, non-profit organizations can freely disseminate information on COVID-19 vaccine and preventive health information. The platform is also providing health resources to people from UNICEF India about when to seek emergency care and how to manage mild COVID-19 symptoms at home.
“The (COVID-19 and vaccine related) information is accessible and prominent on Facebook’s COVID-19 Information Center and in Feed. On Instagram, we are promoting this information via Guides in Explore…We have also built a series of Twitter Moments to help you get the facts from the most reliable sources, because we know not all the information you see on the service is credible. These dedicated Moments about vaccine safety, how to stay safe and more, include detailed and accredited information from organisations like the MoHFW and World Health Organization, among others,” Facebook added in its statement.
Micro blogging site Twitter has also been stepping-up efforts to disseminate COVID-19 prevention and vaccination related information on its portal in the past few weeks in multiple Indic languages.
The steps taken by social media firms to amplify COVID-19 and vaccine related information comes at a time when the country has been reeling under the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic. With more than 3 lakh people testing positive everyday, India’s hospitals and healthcare infrastructure has been overburdened leading to shortage of beds, critical care, and oxygen meant to treat critically ill patients.
During this time, social media portals including Twitter, Facebook, and WhatsApp have become the default way for affected citizens to self-organize and seek emergency help.
In the last few weeks alone, India is trapped in a vicious circle of government ineffectiveness and failures. The country failed to take adequate measures in terms of tracing, tracking and isolation. Now that the numbers have surged, contact tracing has become a complicated, time-consuming and less essential Covid protocol. Cases have increased to such an extent that every third person tested is found Covid positive, while the caseload has gone up by 50% in cities like Kolkata and Delhi where the positivity rate currently stands at more than 35%.