SAN FRANCISCO (NewsNation Now) — Google will soon open select facilities for use as vaccination sites and bolster search results to display locations that offer COVID-19 vaccines.
In a blog post Monday, Google CEO Sundar Pichai said the company will show COVID-19 vaccination sites in Google Search and Google Maps, starting in the U.S. and then expanding to other countries.
A specific rollout date wasn’t mentioned; Pichai says “in the coming weeks” vaccination sites in the following states will show up on Maps: Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas.
“Searches for ‘vaccines near me’ have increased 5x since the beginning of the year and we want to make sure we’re providing locally relevant answers,” Pichai said. “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.”
Pichai says the information will be populated in partnership with “authoritative sources,” including VaccineFinder.org, pharmacies and government agencies. San Francisco Bay Area residents can expect to get a vaccine at Google facilities, Pichai added.
Google also plans to make it easier to find vaccine eligibility information in Search.
The company is partnering with health care provider One Medical and public health authorities to open vaccination sites at company facilities in San Francisco as well as Los Angeles.
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The COVID-19 vaccine distribution in the U.S. has encountered some bumps in the road. State officials have tried to manage getting residents vaccinated with limited quantities while the federal government was simultaneously balancing the presidential transition.
Dr. John Swartzberg with UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health had said federal funds were dragging attempts to get vaccines out fast.
“Health economists and people looking at the distribution of the vaccine, back in September estimated that the 50 states needed at least $8.4 billion to really get a program up and running,” said Swartzberg. “The states were given by the federal government back in October about $400 million. There lies the biggest piece of the problem.”
Swartzbeg also pointed to a lack of time to prepare for distribution.
“Part of the distribution problem relates to the fact that we didn’t have time to set up the sites we needed, we didn’t have time to hire the people and get the training we needed when the vaccines started coming in,” Swartzberg said.
On Jan. 12, the U.S. told localities not to reserve second doses of the vaccine, and to start using them on people who had not been vaccinated yet in attempts to speed up vaccinations. They also recommended moving on to vaccinating another demographic beyond the health care workers and nursing home residents and staff prioritized in the first phase of the rollout to people ages 65 and older.
States remain worried about having enough doses for timely second shots along with meeting the demand for those yet to get a first one.
As of Jan. 24, a little over 18,500,000 U.S. residents had received at least their first dose of either Pfizer or Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
NewsNation affiliate KRON contributed to this report