Google's Indian-American CEO Sundar Pichai announced on Monday that the tech giant will open up its spaces in the US to serve as mass COVID-19 vaccination sites and committed more than USD 150 million to promote vaccine education. Google is initially looking at offices’ spaces inside the US, but is open to do the same in other countries as well, a company official said.
"Today we’re announcing that we’ll be opening up Google spaces to serve as mass vaccination sites, committing more than USD 150 million to promote vaccine education and equitable distribution, and making it easier for you to find where and when to get a vaccine," Pichai announced in a blog post on Monday.
"Searches for ‘vaccines near me’ have increased 5x since the beginning of the year and we want to make sure we’re providing timely and locally relevant answers,” he said.
Pichai, 48, said to help with mass vaccination efforts, starting in the United States, Google will make select facilities—such as buildings, parking lots and open spaces—available to anyone eligible for the vaccine based on state and local guidelines.
"We’ll start by partnering with health care provider One Medical and public health authorities to open sites, where needed, in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area in California; Kirkland, Washington; and New York City, with plans to expand nationally,” he said.
Google is working with local officials to determine when sites can open based on vaccine availability, Pichai added.
The US is the worst-hit, has with more than 25 million COVID-19 cases recorded in the country. The country’s death toll moved above 417,000, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, Google has helped more than 100 government agencies and global non-governmental organisations run critical public service health announcements through its Ad Grants Crisis Relief programme, he said.
"Today, we’re announcing an additional USD 100 million in ad grants for the CDC Foundation, the World Health Organisation, and nonprofits around the globe. We’ll invest another USD 50 million in partnership with public health agencies to reach underserved communities with vaccine-related content and information,” Pichai said.
Google’s efforts will focus heavily on equitable access to vaccines. Early data in the US shows that disproportionately affected populations, especially people of colour and those in rural communities, are not getting access to the vaccine at the same rates as other groups, he said.
To help, Google.org has committed USD 5 million in grants to organisations addressing racial and geographic disparities in COVID-19 vaccinations, including Morehouse School of Medicine’s Satcher Health Leadership Institute and the CDC Foundation, he said.
In the coming weeks, COVID-19 vaccination locations will be available in Google Search and Maps, starting with Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas, with more states and countries to come.
“We’ll include details like whether an appointment or referral is required, if access is limited to specific groups, or if it has a drive-through,” he wrote.
Google, according to an official, is working with local officials, public health authorities, and medical providers to move quickly, so once logistics are finalised and as soon as there are enough vaccine doses available, the sites will open.
“We're open to supporting wherever we can, but we're starting in the US and we'll assess from there,” the official said, responding to a question if the programme will be expanded to other countries as well," the official said.
The novel coronavirus which originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan, the capital of the central Hubei Province, in December 2019 has claimed more than 2.12 million lives and infected over 99 million people across the world, according to Johns Hopkins University.