In the United States, non-English speakers are left behind in the registration and administration of COVID-19 vaccines. While most statewide efforts to solve this problem mainly deal with translating vaccine materials and making them available to non-English speakers, several advocacy groups and local governments are ramping up efforts to reach the non-English speakers and increase their access to the COVID-19 vaccines.
Connecticut Outreach to Address Vaccine Administration Disparities
- While releasing the COVID-19 race/ethnicity vaccination data, Connecticut Department of Health Acting Commissioner, Dr. Deidre Gifford, stated that the state was redoubling its efforts to ensure the vaccine reaches communities and populations disproportionately impacted by the virus.
- Some of the strategies/steps taken by the state include:
- Re-allocation of additional vaccine to communities with large minority populations.
- “Encouraging vaccine providers to conduct outreach and implement other measures to ensure that individuals from underserved communities have equitable access to vaccinations.”
- “Targeting an additional roughly 10% of the state’s allocation to go to what are known as “high SVI towns” for use at clinics targeted for senior housing, congregate settings and other locations with populations that might not have easy access to vaccine.”
- Creating a Vaccine Appointment Assist Line to ensure residents with no internet access and non-English speaking residents can book vaccine appointments.
- Deploying bilingual Community Outreach Specialists who already have relationships with the local communities to work as vaccine ambassadors.
- “Supporting a multi-lingual education and social media campaign to boost vaccine confidence (communications materials are translated into Spanish, Portuguese, Polish and Haitian Creole, other languages on request)”
- Connecticut has also partnered Health Equity Solutions, with a non-profit organization based in Hartford in an outreach program to reach over 10,000 minority residents to debunk myths about the COVID-19 vaccine over the course of the next three months.
- According to Dr. Deidre Gifford, Connecticut’s acting public health commissioner, the partnership will strengthen and enhance the state’s outreach efforts in the Black and Latino communities.
- Health Equity Solutions plans to leverage faith-based and education-based networks and partners to provide accurate information about the vaccine to reach as many people as possible.
Advocacy Groups and Non-Profits Outreach Programs
- Immigrant advocacy groups in the United States believe the over 11 million illegal immigrants in the US are some of the most difficult-to-reach people during the COVID-19 vaccination campaign, the largest in the history of the country.
- Some of the immigrants living in the country illegally are apprehensive about their details being handed over to the authorities, but for the majority that speaks little to no English, language is a huge barrier in accessing the vaccines.
- Besides, some of them are hesitant about receiving the shots since the language barrier hinders them from accessing messages and materials that counter misinformation about the vaccine.
- To help Latino immigrants deal with these challenges, advocacy groups are “going into farm fields to bring vaccines and information to migrant laborers and trying to counter misinformation in Spanish and other languages.”
- Desert Healthcare District and Foundation, a healthcare nonprofit went into farm fields in Riverside County with tablets to register the farmworkers for vaccine appointments. The nonprofit also shares information about COVID-19 and how to get tested for it on WhatsApp in Spanish and Purépecha, an indigenous western Mexico language.
- The National Day Laborer Organizing Network is reaching 300,000 listeners weekly using a Spanish-language radio show on social media to share information about the virus. The hosts of the shows, also migrants and low-income earners themselves plan to spend more time debunking myths and countering misinformation about the vaccines to their listeners.
- Chinatown Service Center, a nonprofit health organization in Chinatown, LA, has been doing mobile testing and vaccination in Asian-majority neighborhoods in the greater Los Angeles area. The nonprofit has also helped reach out to vulnerable households to help register them for vaccines and provide translations at vaccination sites.
Arizona’s Spanish Language Vaccine Registration Website
- Health officials in Arizona launched a vaccine registration website in Spanish to cater to the state’s 32% Hispanic population.
Santa Clara County Live Facebook Events
- Santa Clara County in California is made up of 39% Asian, 25% Latino and about 53% of the population does not speak English at home, while 39% of the population is foreign-born.
- To prepare its non-English speaking residents for the vaccination, “the county held Facebook Live events a few times a week in different languages and sent bilingual workers door-to-door in the hardest-hit neighborhoods to share vaccine information.”
Other Strategies to Address Language Barrier in Vaccine Roll-out
- While many states and the federal government are yet to set in place adequate plans to deal with the inequalities in vaccine registration, appointment, and distribution, experts believe that a “more targeted outreach – including door knocking, visits to front-line workers at their place of employment, streamlined registration sites and language translation services at vaccination sites – is needed to overcome misinformation and educate communities that long have been plagued by racial injustices in the USA.”