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California Becomes First State to Launch Chatbot to Combat COVID-19 Misinformation, Especially Focused on the Spanish-Speaking Community

Date: April 21, 2022
Number: NR22-077
Contact: CDPHpress@cdph.ca.gov


CDPH partnered with WhatsApp to launch Spanish- and English-language chatbots that will provide accurate information on COVID-19 and vaccines

SACRAMENTO – The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) today unveiled new Spanish- and English-language WhatsApp chatbot tools to offer reliable information about COVID-19 to Californians, especially those in the Latino community. Thanks to a partnership with Meta, California is the first state in the country to launch a tool of this kind.

When using this service, Spanish- and English-speakers will receive up-to-date information about the safety of vaccines, how to book vaccination appointments, and how to obtain digital records of vaccinations.

This new tool is a critical facet of how the state continues moving forward via the SMARTER Plan, which prioritizes communicating with Californians and combating misinformation.

This new tool reinforces CDPH's commitment to ensuring access to vaccines through a data-driven and equity-centered approach. The tool also builds on other strategies to combat misinformation and disinformation, including the deployment of a robust network of trusted community messengers focused on proactively reaching Californians to ensure they are vaccinated and boosted. WhatsApp is a popular communication channel among Hispanics, both in California and abroad.

The chatbot is free to all and can be accessed by scanning a QR code (below) or texting "hola" to 833-422-1090. Once the chatbot is active, a menu of options appears onscreen, allowing users to select the COVID-19 information most pertinent to them. This includes local vaccination sites, transportation options for getting to the site, and other frequently asked questions about the COVID-19 vaccine.

"Our mission to keep California safe from the threat of COVID-19 is not over, and we must continue to keep our communities informed on how we can continue moving toward the new normal we all long for," said CDPH Director and State Public Health Officer Dr. Tomás Aragón. "That is why we are meeting even more Californians where they are, and spend time every day, by presenting reliable, accurate information on a trusted platform and in the language they speak."

California has been able to move towards this new normal by informing its residents about the safety and efficacy of the vaccine. Since the start of the pandemic, more than 72 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered statewide: 6 million doses have been administered to the most vulnerable communities, with about 59.2% of Latinos in California fully vaccinated (finished their primary series).

"Since the start of the pandemic, WhatsApp has been a powerful tool for more than 150 health organizations around the world to share lifesaving information and tackle misinformation. We're thrilled to add the state of California, as the first state in the U.S., to this effort as well, and in doing so will be offering even more tools to get Californians accurate and authoritative news, information, resources, and tips to stay healthy during COVID-19," said Mona Pasquil Rogers, head of Meta State Policy in California. "Partnerships like this one are one of the many ways Meta is helping to fight Spanish-language misinformation."

For additional information, visit MyTurn.ca.gov, the state's vaccination website, where Californians can check their eligibility, register, and receive notifications to schedule an appointment.

People without internet access can call the COVID-19 hotline at 1-833-422-4255 (833-4CA-4ALL), which has support in multiple languages. All personal data provided is confidential and protected.

Information about the state's COVID-19 initiatives can be found at covid19.ca.gov/es/.

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