The California Department of Public Health and Meta have partnered to launch chatbot tools to combat COVID-19 misinformation.
The department said California is the first in the nation to launch such a tool.
The free WhatsApp chatbot tools are offered in both English and Spanish and geared toward the Latino community, CDPH said in a press release. Users can receive information about the safety of COVID vaccines, how to book vaccination appointments and where to access digital COVID vaccine records.
“Our mission to keep California safe from the threat of COVID-19 is not over, and we must continue to keep our communities informed on how we can continue moving toward the new normal we all long for,” CDPH Director Dr. Tomás Aragón said. “That is why we are meeting even more Californians where they are, and spend time every day, by presenting reliable, accurate information on a trusted platform and in the language they speak.”
Those interested can text “hola” to 833-422-1090. Once the chatbot is activated, users can select from a menu of options including local vaccination sites, transportation options for getting to a vaccination site and more.
CDPH said it is utilizing the WhatsApp messaging service because of its popularity among the Hispanic community in California and abroad.
Meta is the parent organization of Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and more.
“Since the start of the pandemic, WhatsApp has been a powerful tool for more than 150 health organizations around the world to share lifesaving information and tackle misinformation,” said Mona Pasquil Rogers, head of Meta State Policy in California. “We’re thrilled to add the state of California, as the first state in the U.S., to this effort as well, and in doing so will be offering even more tools to get Californians accurate and authoritative news. Partnerships like this one are one of the many ways Meta is helping to fight Spanish-language misinformation.”
As of Friday morning, 72.8% of those eligible were fully vaccinated against COVID in Santa Barbara County. Nearly 81% of eligible people have received at least one dose.
Of the doses administered in the county, 43% were given to white individuals and 38.9% to Hispanic people.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has maintained the COVID vaccines are safe and effective.
People can visit MyTurn.ca.gov to check eligibility, register and receive notifications about COVID vaccine appointments. Those without access to internet can call 1-833-422-4255 which has support in multiple languages.