VIRA joins the call on WhatsApp to combat vaccine disinformation

Johns Hopkins engineers constructed the chatbot to reply to frequent questions on COVID-19 pictures.

vira chatbot
This chat is with VIRA, the Vaccine Data Useful resource Assistant, which was constructed by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg College of Public Well being and deployed to WhatsApp in collaboration with Vonage.
Picture: VIRA

Vonage, Johns Hopkins and WhatsApp have mixed forces to get correct vaccine data to customers of the favored app. VIRA, the Vaccine Data Useful resource Assistant, began out as a web-based chatbot. With this new challenge, WhatsApp customers can get solutions to questions concerning the COVID-19 vaccines by texting  +1 410-401-0306.

Delta and Omicron proceed to trigger COVID infections and hospitalizations, and there’s nonetheless a big section of the U.S. inhabitants that’s not vaccinated, notably amongst youthful adults. As of December 2021, lower than 60% of 18-14 yr olds have been vaccinated whereas solely 54% of children 12 – 17 are vaccinated. Twenty-seven p.c of WhatsApp customers are between 26 and 35 whereas 19% are between 15 and 25.

The VIRA chatbot was developed by the Worldwide Vaccine Entry Heart on the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg College of Public Well being with specialists from the Bloomberg College’s Division of Worldwide Well being and Johns Hopkins Whiting College of Engineering.

Pleasure Corso, CMO of Vonage, stated in a press launch that the corporate is proud to be partnering with Johns Hopkins.

“With the Vonage Messages API for WhatsApp, we’re serving to establishments like Johns Hopkins join and interact with customers from just about wherever, on-demand,” she stated.

The Vonage Messages API embeds the VIRA chatbot into WhatsApp, sending notifications, messages, and important, focused data in actual time. VIRA makes use of pure language processing and machine studying capabilities from IBM’s Undertaking Debater work to know questions and supply fast, expert-vetted solutions and responses relating to COVID-19 vaccinations. The chatbot understands and responds on a spread of matters together with vaccine effectiveness, security, eligibility and different mitigation measures, leveraging IBM Key Factors adaptive know-how to increase the vary of points lined over time.

In response to the VIRA FAQ, IBM researchers have been engaged on this challenge with the JHU group since December 2020, analyzing frequent considerations and queries associated to the vaccines. The system is designed to study from new conversations by detecting rising considerations and studying new methods wherein individuals specific present ones.

VIRA is part of WhatsApp’s international COVID-19 Program. For the reason that begin of the pandemic, WhatsApp has partnered with over 350 well being authorities on helplines to attach individuals to  data round COVID-19 and the vaccines.

“We’re working with well being ministries and governments world wide to assist get their populations registered for vaccinations straight inside WhatsApp,” stated Christina LoNigro, WhatsApp Social Impression Initiatives lead, in a press launch.

LoNigro stated the corporate has labored with the CDC, the World Well being Group, UNICEF and well being authorities in India, Mexico, Brazil and Indonesia.

In April 2020, the federal government of Spain and Sngular, a Madrid-based worldwide know-how options supplier, used the Vonage Messages API to construct a COVID19 chatbot to scale back the calls into the Spanish Nationwide Well being Service. The API additionally integrates with SMS, MMS and  social chat apps. Prospects have used the Vonage Messages API for logistics and supply notifications, journey alerts, healthcare reminders and banking.

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