During the course of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent vaccination drives, racial disparities have continued to impact the Black and Latino communities. In a bid to counter misinformation and help people understand the importance of vaccination, messaging platform WhatsApp and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have joined forces to develop a Spanish language vaccine-finder service.
The partnership between the CDC and WhatsApp aims to deliver accurate information on the coronavirus vaccine to Latinos and reaching the large community of Latinos on WhatsApp could help in effectively countering and combating misinformation and mistrust. The service is called “Mi chat sobre vacunas COVID” and is chatbot developed to help users find locations of vaccination centers and find free rides to and fro to the centers. The chat is live now and can be accesses through a QR code or link. Once the use replies with hola, the app sends a menu option that covers correct information about nearby vaccination centers, to and fro transport options, and provides detailed answers to frequently asked questions. The information service is a major part of “We Can Do This Campaign”. According to a statistical analysis by Kaiser Family Foundation, Latinos have received smaller vaccination doses as compared to whites with only 36% Latinos receiving at least one dose against 45% of whites. Federal, local, and state governments have implemented numerous strategies to educate people on the COVID-19 pandemic and the vaccine. While Facebook, Twitter, and other major social media platforms have taken initiatives to remove false information, much of the conspiracy theories such as the vaccine will give you the virus or make women infertile, among others have been circulating on messaging platforms such as WhatsApp and Telegram.
The initiative comes at a time when the Latino community has been largely targeted a massive wave of vaccine misinformation – majority of which was spread through WhatsApp – which has led to a surge in vaccine hesitancy. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has partnered with Facebook, parent company of WhatsApp, as a part of Biden Administration’s goal to get over 70% adults in the United States vaccinated with at least one dose by fourth of July.