News agency Reuters
this week said it was teaming with
Amazon to provide "trusted, global" information about COVID-19 vaccines on Alexa, the ecommerce giant's voice assistant. Based on my experience with trying to get vaccinated in New York State, I can't
see how this collaboration will do anything except disappoint people.
Reuters claims Amazon customers will be able to get answers to questions about the availability and
eligibility for vaccines in more than 85 countries and all 50 U.S. states. The news provider will also provide updates on vaccine distribution, approvals and rollout strategies in different
"Reuters will source, gather and verify a robust set of vaccine data from U.S. state and country governments, health agencies and local reporting groups, as well as
leverage the reporting of its 2,500 journalists in 200 locations worldwide to supplement the data," according to an announcement.
The effort is commendable, but mostly useless
if the data is completely generic. For example, people ages 30 and older are eligible for the vaccine in New York, and the age threshold will be lowered to 16 on April 6.
What's less apparent is where any of these people can expect to get vaccinated, given the state's vaccine information website is a joke. It tells me about vaccination centers 300 miles away from
my ZIP code, and no county-level information that's more meaningful.
Doing a separate Google search for my county, I'm pointed to a website that's equally useless. Only after
entering my personal information does it tell me there are no appointments available for the week -- and there's no guidance as to when the schedule might open up.
And yet, my
wife found a way to get vaccination appointments for both of us at a local pharmacy. She learned the store had a limited supply of vaccines from a friend. Accurate information about vaccines is
basically being shared through a whisper network -- akin to finding a drug dealer. Of course, now that marijuana is legal in New York, it won't be long before people start asking: "Alexa, where can I
buy weed?" Somehow, I don't expect Alexa's answers will be any more informative than its vaccine data.