Amazon, Google step in to help COVID-19 vaccine sign-up after glitches affect rollout


After hospitals and government officials witnessed resounding complaints of the COVID-19 vaccine sign-up sites glitching, Amazon, Microsoft and Google have swiftly stepped in to help bring people the resources they need to schedule vaccine appointments. 

Amazon's Alexa is leaning on its virtual assistant capabilities to connect users to nearby vaccine appointments. Alexa can list local vaccine sites and call the locations to ask about their appointment availability. The virtual assistant can also answer users' questions about COVID-19 vaccine eligibility.

Google launched a call center with virtual agents that can assist callers in 28 languages to answer COVID-19 questions. Artificial intelligence agents will direct callers to local resources, locate local vaccine sites and provide guidance throughout the registration process. The diversity of languages offered is expected to help bring minority communities to the vaccine.

The program is already being used in New York, where virtual agents have deflected around 25 percent of incoming calls, as callers were able to get answers through the virtual agents.

"We never would have been able to handle this on the legacy system," Sandra Beattie, a New York state COVID-19 task force member and first deputy state budget director, said in an April 15 blog post. "There were times we were handling terabytes of data in rapid frequency. This was a tremendous undertaking which no other state in the nation has done, all while managing not to have a registration or scheduling mishap."

The Oklahoma State Department of Health teamed up with Microsoft to build a mobile app that informs people when they are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine and helps them sign up for an appointment. The app would soon become one of the main ways people can make an appointment to get the vaccine. 

Oklahoma health departments had been working on setting up their own individual sign-up pages while waiting for the app to release.


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