The Dubai Health Authority (DHA) is leveraging the popularity of WhatsApp to boost COVID-19 vaccination rates. Known as the DHA WhatsApp hotline, the innovative, 24-hour service simplifies finding and securing vaccine appointments for residents of Dubai, one of the United Arab Emirates.

Facebook, owner of the multi-platform messaging app, partnered with the DHA to develop the WhatsApp COVID-19 hotline earlier in the pandemic for both Android and iOS phones. The original chatbot provides free access to up-to-date COVID-19 information around-the-clock. It has addressed more than 150,000 queries since its inception.

The new DHA WhatsApp feature uses AI to locate the earliest available appointments at DHA vaccination centers around Dubai. WhatsApp users must add a phone number — 800 342 — to their contacts, and text “Hi” to open a chat. After entering their Medical Record Number (MRN), the chatbot shows DHA facilities with open COVID-19 vaccine appointments. The user clicks on a location and selects an open time slot.  The chatbot then secures the appointment with the MRN, and sends the user a confirmation message. 

The Pfizer and Sinopharm vaccines and vaccine boosters are available through the DHA WhatsApp hotline. Dubai residents can also use the DHA app to book vaccine appointments. Those over 60 may phone the DHA directly.

The Emirate of Dubai is a federal territory governed by a hereditary ruler known as an emir, with an estimated population of 9.89 million. According to the New York Times global tracker, Dubai currently has the highest COVID-19 vaccination rate in the world, with 72% of the population having received at least one vaccine shot.