On Saturday, Google put out a press release touting efforts to help with India’s vaccination drive; this included dispelling misinformation in local languages, featuring information on side effects, and sharing official statistics on vaccination progress. But one major feature that Google had already rolled out in forty other countries was curiously missing: finding nearby vaccination centres. But that feature, the company said, was going to roll out soon.
“With vaccinations for the vulnerable population having commenced from 1st March in thousands of hospitals across the country, we are also working with the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to accurately surface the information on vaccination centers on Google Search, Maps and Google Assistant, and expect to roll this out in the coming weeks,” the company said. In January, Google CEO Sundar Pichai announced that feature’s rollout for 40 countries.
A Google spokesperson told MediaNama the feature would come out in a “couple weeks”, but declined to commit to a specific timeline. The first company to integrate vaccine centre information was MapmyIndia, whose map has been embedded on the government’s Co-WIN vaccine registration website. But until a few days after the vaccination phase for older people started, it was impossible for users to book a session at a nearby vaccination centre with their PIN code, having to instead go through a series of nested menus that had no guarantee of returning the PIN code they resided in.
While it’s not clear if this glitch was on MapmyIndia — which had a PIN code search option on the main Co-WIN website, but not on the appointment booking screen — or the government, a straightforward Google search result for vaccination centres could smooth things along for people looking for a vaccination centre after the drive expands to include younger people.
Correction (March 15): This article previously stated that it was previously impossible for users to find a vaccination centre on the Co-WIN portal with just their PIN code. It was actually impossible to book an appointment via PIN code, not to locate a vaccination centre.
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