Google on Thursday pledged funds for 250,000 COVID-19 vaccinations and technical assistance towards vaccine delivery in low- and middle-income countries amidst a surge in infections across the world. The internet search giant also announced that it is helping to fund pop-up vaccine sites in the US and committing an additional USD 250 million in Ad Grants to connect people to accurate vaccine information.
We're also announcing that Google Cloud is launching a virtual agent where people without internet access can schedule vaccine appointments and ask questions about eligibility and availability over the phone in up to 28 languages and dialects, it said.
The announcement came as Google's Chief Health Officer Dr Karen DeSalvo joined an event co-hosted by Gavi, the vaccine alliance, and the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, to kick off a campaign to fund vaccines for low and middle income countries.
In a blog post, Google said more people have access to the COVID-19 vaccine, it is making it easier to learn why, when and where one can get immunised. Today, you can now find vaccination locations on Google Maps and Search in the US, Canada, France, Chile, India and Singapore, it said.
Acknowledging that overcoming the pandemic will require a coordinated effort on a global scale, Google said that to do its part, it is providing 250,000 COVID-19 vaccines to countries in need, helping fund pop-up vaccine sites in the US, and committing an additional USD 250 million in Ad Grants to connect people to accurate vaccine information.
The announcement came as Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance, launched a drive for additional funding to secure vaccines for people in low and middle-income countries. Google.org is funding 250,000 vaccinations and providing Gavi with pro bono technical assistance to accelerate global distribution. We're also kicking off an employee giving campaign, and both the Gavi Matching Fund and Google.org will match each donation to triple the impact, it said.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, hundreds of Google employees have helped organisations connect people with up-to-date information particularly in communities that are not typically reached by mainstream public service announcements.
For example, we're working with UnidosUS on a bilingual vaccination campaign that to date has reached more than two million people in hard-hit communities in Miami, Chicago, Houston, NYC and LA. We've conducted research with the World Health Organisation on what information improves vaccine confidence, and governments worldwide are using these insights to inform their public service announcements, Google said.
To expand this work, Google said that it is committing an additional USD 250 million in Ad Grants to governments, community and public health organisations, including the WHO, that will fund more than 2.5 billion vaccine-related PSAs. This brings Google's total commitment for COVID-related public service announcements to more than USD 800 million.
As we've learned throughout the pandemic, no one is safe from COVID-19 until everyone is safe. Getting vaccines to everyone around the world is a challenging, but necessary, undertaking. We'll keep doing our part and working together until we get there, Google said.
The World Health Organisation has warned that the world needs a "reality check" on the state of the pandemic, as countries abandon restrictions despite four weeks of rising deaths and seven weeks of rising cases globally.
Over 4.4 million COVID-19 infections have been recorded across the world last week. New deaths have increased by 11%, the WHO said. There have been 138,284,275 confirmed COVID-19 cases globally and the death toll stands at 2,973,179, according to Johns Hopkins University.