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Amazon Alexa to provide info on COVID-19 testing centres, vaccines to users in India

In 2020, Alexa was able to share information about COVID-19 related symptoms and cases in India, a statement said. Amazon Alexa is now updated with the latest COVID-19 related features for users in India.

August 04, 2021 / 08:32 AM IST

Digital assistant Amazon Alexa can now help users in India with COVID-19-related information, including details of nearest testing centres and vaccination points as well as answer queries about inoculation.

In 2020, Alexa was able to share information about COVID-19 related symptoms and cases in India, a statement said. Amazon Alexa is now updated with the latest COVID-19 related features for users in India.

"Now, Alexa will be able to provide information about testing and vaccination centres, as well as information on vaccination availability, COVID-19 helpline numbers, details to contribute towards COVID-19 relief, and much more. The information is sourced from CoWIN portal, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare website as well as MapmyIndia," the statement said.

Amazon has teamed up with MapmyIndia to help users find the nearest COVID-19 testing centre along with the travel distance.

Users can ask questions such as "Alexa, where can I get a COVID-19 test?"

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COVID-19 Vaccine

Frequently Asked Questions

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How does a vaccine work?

A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

How many types of vaccines are there?

There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

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Alexa can also help users identify the closest COVID-19 vaccination centres where vaccines are available. Alexa recognizes the user's location from their device registration and provides a list of all the nearby vaccination centres.

Using the Vaccine Info Alexa skill, users can help friends and family -- who are in other PIN codes -- to book appointments. In case of unavailability of the vaccine, Alexa can also set a reminder to check with the skill if the vaccine is available the next day. Skills are like apps for Alexa.

In a separate statement, location technology and digital maps company MapmyIndia said its location APIs will enable real-time data availability on Amazon Alexa.

Application program interface or API is a set of functions and procedures for building software.

"MapmyIndia moves a step ahead in its endeavour to deliver cutting edge, location-based cloud services.

"By making our Location APIs and hyperlocal content available on Amazon Alexa, we are not just offering our services but also assisting the Indian public, by providing hyperlocal search on Alexa, whether they are at home or on the go," Rohan Verma, CEO and Executive Director of MapmyIndia, said.
PTI
first published: Aug 4, 2021 08:33 am

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