Facebook launches vaccine finder for RGV residents

Facebook announced Monday the launch of its vaccine finder tool to help find where and when Rio Grande Valley residents can get a COVID-19 vaccine.

The tool, is in partnership with Boston Children’s Hospital for the United States and is a global initiative to help bring 50 million people a step closer to getting COVID-19 vaccines.

“Starting today (Monday,) users can search for vaccine locations and make an appointment directly from their News Feeds,” the press release reads.

“In the coming weeks, users will also be able to see whether the locations nearest to them have vaccines available.”

According to Carnegie Mellon and Facebook’s Data for Good, 70.6% of Cameron County residents would choose to receive a COVID-19 vaccine if it were offered to them today, but according to government data only 12.5% have received one, the press release reads.

Mark Zuckerberg posted on Twitter Monday morning that Facebook has already connected over 2 billion people to authoritative Covid-19 information. Now that many countries are moving toward vaccinations for all adults, they’re working on tools to make it easier for everyone to get vaccinated as well.

“First, we’re launching a tool that shows you when and where you can get vaccinated, and gives you a link to make an appointment,” he tweeted.

“This will be in the Covid Information Center, which we’ll show people right in their News Feed. We’ve already seen people use Facebook to find vaccination appointments, so this should enable millions more people to do the same.”

In addition to the vaccine finder tool, Facebook will also bring the Covid Information Center to Instagram and will continue to work with health authorities and governments to expand their WhatsApp chatbots to help people register for vaccines.

“More than 3 billion messages related to Covid have already been sent by governments, nonprofits and international organizations to citizens through official WhatsApp chatbots, so this update will help with the vaccination effort as well,” Zuckerberg wrote.

This week, The Monitor reported that since healthcare providers started administering COVID-19 vaccinations to eligible individuals in mid-December, about 10% of people in the Rio Grande Valley have been fully vaccinated as of March 12 while 18% have received at least one dose of the vaccine.

The data, made available by the Texas Department of State Health Services, shows just how far officials have progressed in their efforts to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine throughout Texas where a total of 5,246,949 people have received at least one dose and 2,781,088 people, or 9.6% of Texans, have been fully vaccinated, The Monitor reported.

While about 10% of Rio Grande Valley residents are now fully vaccinated, the percentage of people vaccinated in each county varies.

In Hidalgo County a total of 83,465 people, or 9.6% of the total county population, have been fully vaccinated while 145,182 people, or 16.7%, have been vaccinated with at least one dose of the available vaccines as of March 12.

A higher percentage of Cameron County’s population, 11.4% which is about 48,206 people there, have been fully vaccinated. About 86,721 people, or 20% of county residents, have received at least one dose.

“The data shows the vaccines are safe and they work,” Zuckerberg wrote.

“They’re our best hope for getting past this virus and getting back to normal life. I’m looking forward to getting mine, and I hope you are too.”

John Brownstein, chief information officer for the Boston Children’s Hospital said they are thrilled to be joining forces with Facebook to build tools that aim to support consumers in their search for COVID-19 vaccines.

“Improving vaccine access and equity across the country will be a critical step in achieving herd immunity and bringing this pandemic to a close,” he said.

Staff Writer Berenice Garcia contributed to this report.

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