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Dubai announces COVID-19 vaccine bookings via WhatsApp

The Dubai Health Authority (DHA) has introduced a service that allows the community to book appointments for the COVID-19 vaccine at DHA facilities through WhatsApp.
The pioneering move to launch the DHA WhatsApp hotline, which utilizes Artificial Intelligence (AI) to facilitate bookings, is in line with the Authority’s vision to adopt advanced technologies in the healthcare sector across all aspects from customer service to hospital management and health service delivery, to further enhance productivity, patient convenience, and care.

The automated chatbot application is a free 24/7 service, initially developed to raise awareness among the public and provide them with accurate information about COVID-19 as well as other DHA services. The service was introduced in line with the Authority’s efforts to provide community members with an option to have a 24/7 multi-language communication channel.

More than 150,000 COVID-19 queries were addressed through Whatsapp, the messaging service owned by Facebook, since DHA and Facebook began providing the hotline service.

To access the 24/7 WhatsApp hotline, users will have to add 800 342 to their contacts and send "Hi" on WhatsApp. To book for the COVID-19 vaccine appointment, users should submit their Medical Record Number (MRN), which is a prerequisite to access the service.

The public can then select the vaccination center and the appointment date and time as per their convenience. The AI-enabled system will provide the earliest appointment options in the selected center. Users will then receive a confirmation message with the name of the center, date, and timing of their appointment.

Fatma Al Khajah, director of the Customer Happiness Department at DHA said: "Through the use of AI technology and this additional channel to book an appointment for the COVID-19 vaccine, we aim to provide community members with the utmost convenience. The new service will further bolster our vaccination drive."

Ramez Shehadi, Managing Director for Facebook MENA, said: "During the COVID-19 pandemic, it's been important more than ever before to connect the public with official sources of accurate health information. We are pleased to be able to partner with the DHA to help provide the community in Dubai with a quick and simple way to book their essential vaccines via WhatsApp."

Since the onset of the pandemic, WhatsApp has partnered with more than 150 national, state, and local governments as well as organizations like WHO and UNICEF, on COVID-19 helplines to connect its two billion users to accurate information and resources. Over three billion messages have been sent across these global helplines in the past year.

Facebook also introduced the Coronavirus Information Centre on top of user’s News Feeds to provide a central place for people to get the latest news on the pandemic.

More than two billion people worldwide have been directed to the Coronavirus Information Centre and provided with the latest information from health experts and health authorities as well as credible sources to learn more about the virus. Since launching in mid-March, more than 37 million people have visited the Coronavirus Information Centre on Instagram.

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