The company will soon show COVID-19 vaccination sites in Google Search and Google Maps, starting in the U.S. and then expanding to other countries, according to CEO Sundar Pichai.
A specific rollout date wasn’t mentioned on Monday. Pichai said “in the coming weeks” vaccination sites in the following states will show up on Maps: Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas with other states to follow.
“Searches for “vaccines near me” have increased 5x since the beginning of the year and we want to make sure we’re providing locally relevant answers,” Pichai said in a blog post. “We’ll include details like whether an appointment or referral is required, if access is limited to specific groups, or if it has a drive-through.”
Pichai said the information will be populated in partnership with “authoritative sources,” including VaccineFinder.org, pharmacies and government agencies.
Google leadership also said the company plans to make it easier to find vaccine eligibility information in search.
The company is partnering with health care provider One Medical and public health authorities to open vaccination sites at company facilities in San Francisco as well as Los Angeles.
The COVID-19 vaccine distribution in the U.S. has come with some bumps in the road. State officials have tried to manage getting residents vaccinated with limited quantities while the federal government was simultaneously balancing a rough presidential transition.
Dr. John Swartzberg with UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health had said lack of federal funds were dragging attempts to get vaccines out fast.
“Health economists and people looking at the distribution of the vaccine, back in September estimated that the 50 states needed at least $8.4 billion to really get a program up and running,” said Swartsberg. “The states were given by the federal government back in October about $400 million. There lies the biggest piece of the problem.”
In addition, a phased rollout prioritizing health care workers, and then senior citizens, has left vaccination sites with some perishable, leftover doses that are administered to people who are at the right place, at the right time – priority list aside.
On Jan. 12, the U.S. told localities not to reserve second doses of the vaccine, and to start using them on people who had not been vaccinated yet in attempts to speed up vaccinations. They also recommended moving on to vaccinating another demographic, people ages 65 and older.
As of Jan. 24, a little over 18,500,000 U.S. residents had received at least their first dose of either Pfizer or Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.