Facebook is launching a new push to help promote the global COVID-19 vaccination effort, in order to maximize take-up where possible, and move us closer to a return to normal life.
Which, after more than a year of restrictions, now seems like a strange thought - imagine going to sit in a crowd at a sporting event, or catching a plane overseas. The idea itself seems somewhat foreign to consider, but soon, ideally, that will be an option once again.
First off, in order to help get more people vaccinated, faster, Facebook is launching a new tool that will show users in the US where they can get vaccinated, along with links to make an appointment at their local provider.
As you can see here, the new tool will highlight providers on a map, and provide relevant information to make a booking.
Facebook's partnered with Boston Children’s Hospital and VaccineFinder on the new display, which will be made available in Facebook's COVID-19 Information Center, which it will highlight in user feeds.
In addition, Facebook's also expanding its COVID-19 info center to Instagram, to further its awareness push.
Like its main app, Facebook will also look to promote the info center at the top of user feeds in IG, while it's also adding new stickers for Instagram Stories, enabling users to add their own voices to the vaccine awareness effort.
On another front, Facebook's also working with health authorities and governments to help expand their WhatsApp chatbots to prompt more people to register for vaccines.
As per Facebook:
"To date, 3 billion messages have been sent by governments, nonprofits and international organizations to citizens through official WhatsApp chatbots on COVID-19. We’re now working directly with health authorities and governments to get people registered for vaccinations."
WhatsApp, the most used messaging app in the world, has become a key channel for official health information in various regions, including Argentina, Brazil, Indonesia and South Africa. This new effort will help connect more people to accurate, reliable information about the vaccine roll-out in their region.
Misinformation and vaccine hesitancy is another key element that needs to be addressed, and for this, Facebook is also adding new labels on posts about COVID-19 vaccines to show additional information from the WHO.
Facebook updated its rules around vaccine misinformation last month, expanding its list of claims that it would remove due to potential harm. Facebook says that since broadening its efforts, it's removed an additional 2 million pieces of content from Facebook and Instagram.
This new push will expand that effort once again - which, given the comments on this very announcement post, is likely needed.
Indeed, various concerns have been raised about the ongoing discourse, on Facebook specifically, around the vaccine, with misinformation still being shared widely in the app. More recent research has shown that many of these claims don't actually violate Facebook's rules, but may still prompt hesitancy in vaccine take-up. That's why Facebook's adding these new labels to all posts about COVID-19 vaccines generally, which, as you can see in the example above, link people through its COVID-19 Information Center.
Facebook's also adding an additional screen when someone goes to share a post on Facebook and Instagram with an informational COVID-19 vaccine label.
And lastly, Facebook's also sharing new data and insights on vaccine attitudes via Facebook Data for Good’s COVID-19 map and dashboard.
The data maps will highlight various findings based on Facebook user feedback and other sources.
"These visualizations are designed to provide information to inform and monitor vaccine rollouts in over 200 countries and territories. The dashboard is updated in near real-time with data collected by our partners at Carnegie Mellon University and University of Maryland as part of the COVID-19 Symptom Survey."
That will help health authorities improve their messaging, in order to optimize take-up and address community concerns.
This is a crucially important effort in our push to get life back to normal, and to open up society once again. The ongoing economic and personal impacts of the pandemic have added huge pressure to our everyday lives, and the sooner we can resolve these concerns, the better.
Given the significant role it now plays in our everyday interaction, this is an important element for Facebook to be playing a role in - and hopefully, it adds to the overall shift towards the next stage.