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Doctor Armando Vacunno: The WhatsApp Chatbot That Reports On Mexico’s Vaccination Process

Mexicans will be able to ‘chat’ with it to solve any questions they may have about the COVID-19 pandemic.

WhatsApp has become one of the most effective ways for the Mexican government to inform the population about the country’s vaccination program, and they’ve launched a new chatbot for that purpose: ‘Dr. Armando Vacunno’.

The digital character will answer questions and share details about the vaccines.

Mexico’s Ministry of Health is responsible for the project, in partnership with Facebook-owned WhatsApp and Auronix, a company dedicated to improving communication channels.

“Any effort that contributes to having better information is positive, especially if it comes from a well-known international company. I think that will make people trust the vaccines even more,” said Juan Luis Guerrero, an anesthesiologist attached to the Mexican Institute of Social Security.

Dr. Armando Vacunno will provide official information about the COVID-19 vaccination process, ranging from what to do before and after getting the vaccine to basic prevention measures.

Although some Mexicans have already received the vaccine, many are yet to receive it. This chatbot will inform younger generations about when will they get the vaccine. (Government of Veracruz)

The digital assistant will send WhatsApp messages as appointment reminders, including when to get the second dose of the vaccine, according to the national vaccination plan.

“If it will automate and, in turn, improve the vaccination process, we welcome it. After all, although some medical workers and teachers, as well as the elderly, have already received the vaccine, the vast majority of Mexico’s population have to receive it,” said Guerrero, an essential healthcare worker.

The Dr. Armando Vacunno WhatsApp account is fully automated and available 24 hours a day. It is there to answer the most frequent doubts about the vaccines and their side effects, and to share where the vaccine will be administered.

“Well, we must wait and see how well it works. Let us hope that it does not get oversaturated, just like the original vaccine’s registration portal. Hopefully, this will lead to a faster vaccination rate, as that is the main concern of the population,” said Juan Alvárez, co-owner of a traditional Mexican restaurant.

This is not the first time Mexico’s government has utilized WhatsApp as an information tool during the pandemic. In 2020, they created ‘Susana Distancia,’ a superheroine character who invited people to maintain social distancing and provided information about COVID-19 symptoms.

“Some people have already saved Vacunno’s number so that it appears on WhatsApp. However, many of us know that it not yet our turn to get vaccinated; after all, the vaccination process for those ranging 50 to 59 years old has just begun,” said Álvarez.

To talk to Dr. Armando Vacunno — the same mechanic as with Susana Distancia — people just need to save the phone number and send it a message. Automatically, the user will receive a list of commands the chatbot will recognize.

Dr. Armando Vacunno’s number is (+52) 56-1713-0557. For those who have questions about Mexico’s vaccination process, there is a phone line — (+52) 55-3684-0370 — the website vacunacovid.gob.mx, and the email [email protected].

(Translated and edited by Mario Vázquez; edited by Kristen Butler)