Facebook goes all-in on COVID-19 vaccination tools for its users

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Where to get the vaccine and how to make it an appointment are highlighted features

Facebook’s Mark Zuckerburg set out to rally the troops on Monday by launching a campaign that he hopes will bring 50 million people a step closer to getting vaccinated for COVID-19. 

“We've already connected over 2 billion people to authoritative Covid-19 information,” Zuckerburg said in his announcement. “Now that many countries are moving towards vaccinations for all adults, we're working on tools to make it easier for everyone to get vaccinated as well.”

Facebook is stepping up by adding some new additions to its Covid Information Center. They include the following:

  • A tool that shows you when and where you can get vaccinated, plus a link to make an appointment. This information can be found in the Covid Information Center, but it will also show up in Facebook users’ News Feeds. Note: When ConsumerAffairs visited the Covid information page, it was suggested that we “follow” the page to get updates. You might have to do the same.

  • To help spread the word, vaccine-related information from the Covid Information Center will also show up prominently on Facebook-owned Instagram and WhatsApp. On Instagram, the information can be accessed straight from your profile by tapping the menu icon in the top right corner. Facebook did not specify where WhatsApp users will find the related information, but ConsumerAffairs found a general primer for coronavirus-related information here.

Zuckerberg feels that having WhatsApp be a part of the campaign is essential because of its popularity, particularly in emerging mobile markets around the world.

“We're working with health authorities and governments to expand their WhatsApp chatbots to help people register for vaccines,” he said. “More than 3 billion messages related to Covid have already been sent by governments, nonprofits and international organizations to citizens through official WhatsApp chatbots, so this update will help with the vaccination effort as well.”

All well and good, but…

On the surface, what Facebook is doing seems all well and good. However, a specialist in HIPAA Privacy and Security and Electronic Health Records (E.H.R.), said caution is called for.

“Though the Facebook initiative you note does not position the company as a vendor of an E.H.R. they are collecting information that can be considered a Personal Health Record,” Michael Arrigo, Managing Partner and CEO at No World Borders, told ConsumerAffairs.

Pointing to the Federal Trade Commission's stance on the subject, Arrigo reminds consumers that “PHRs are regulated and subject to similar privacy rules. Given Facebook's history of breaches I do not recommend using their solution.”

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