Google to Add COVID-19 Vaccine Information to Search Bar

The company is also launching new, cross-platform initiatives to combat coronavirus vaccine misinformation.

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Need to Know

  • Google will display locations where COVID-19 vaccinations are available via Search, beginning in the UK.
  • The company will roll out the feature in other countries as the coronavirus vaccine becomes more widely available.
  • Google News Initiative is contributing $1.5 million to fund the creation of a COVID-19 Vaccine Media Hub, which will support fact-checking research related to the coronavirus vaccine.

Analysis

As the COVID-19 vaccine begins distribution, Google is making it easier for users to find accurate, up-to-date information about the coronavirus vaccine from directly within Search.

On December 10—just three days after the first COVID-19 vaccine was administered in the UK—Google announced that it has added a function to its Search bar that will display information about where the COVID-19 vaccine can be found to users based in the United Kingdom, whenever a user searches for any information about the vaccine. Search will also display information panels on each individual vaccine (currently there is one approved vaccine, from pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, with another from Modena that is awaiting approval).

“As the world turns its focus to the deployment of vaccines, the type of information people need will evolve,” Karen DeSalvo, chief health officer for Google Health and Kristie Canegallo, VP of trust and safety for Google wrote in a blog post. “Communities will be vaccinated at an unprecedented pace and scale. This will require sharing information to educate the public, including addressing vaccine misperceptions and hesitance, and helping to surface official guidance to people on when, where and how to get vaccinated.” 

To that end, Google has also donated $1.5 million to help fund the creation of a COVID-19 Vaccine Media Hub, which will support fact-checking research. The hub, which is led by the Australian Science Media Centre, will serve as a hub hosting research updates and scientific expertise for journalists, supported by media centers and public health experts from Latin America, Africa, Europe, North America, and Asia-Pacific. Google is also funding research by academics at various US post-secondary institutions, including Columbia, George Washington, and Ohio State universities, to determine what type of reporting best counters COVID-19 vaccine misinformation, and to investigate whether fact-checks affect individual willingness to get vaccinated.

Additionally, Google has been preparing for new “threats and abuse patterns” related to COVID-19 vaccines. In October, the company expanded its medical misinformation policy on YouTube to flag and remove content about vaccines that contradicts trusted health authorities such as the Centers for Disease Control and the WHO. To date, more than 700,00 such videos have been removed from the platform. Google is also removing misleading COVID-19 medical information on other platforms such as Ads, Maps, and the Play store.

Google has been working throughout the pandemic to display the most relevant, useful information across its platforms, whether this has to do with public health advisories or details about curbside pickup from local businesses. The company has launched a number of features to support vendors that were forced to pivot to online retail in the wake of the pandemic, such as a partnership with Ware2Go for a “free and fast” shipping integration within Google Ads, and a “Nearby” feature within Search that displays local stores that are open for business. In September, Google added a COVID-19 layer to Maps, which shows the number of active cases in a given area; two months later, the company updated that capacity to show all-time case numbers, as well as live crowdedness information for public transit, to help users determine whether they feel safe traveling within their home city.

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