But one critical question is whether the immunization program will meet the needs of people from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds.
People from CALD backgrounds form a significant and growing share of Australia’s frontline workforce. This is especially true for aged, disability and community care, as well as hotel quarantine.
Others may have low health literacy skills or find it challenging to track down and understand information about COVID vaccines. Lower health literacy is associated with a reluctance to accept vaccines. Recent studies also suggest those who speak a language other than English at home are less willing to get vaccinated than those who speak English only.
It’s critical we deliver a program aligned with the needs of CALD communities to ensure high levels of public confidence in the COVID vaccine rollout.
The plan outlines the need for clear messaging that’s inclusive, tailored and translated. It also emphasizes the importance of working with community leaders and multicultural community organizations.
Our new research, published today, supports the actions outlined in the plan but also highlights areas needing more focus.
We interviewed people working in multicultural and refugee agencies, as well as stakeholders in CALD community organizations, to understand barriers around communication and engagement during the pandemic.
Our research found gaps in information available during the pandemic. For example, there have been delays in making translations available.
Many people have sought information and news from their countries of origin to fill these gaps. This information may be irrelevant to the Australian situation, or contradictory to local recommendations.
There’s a divide between governments and individuals, with some people feeling like they’ve been left behind. Issues such as an inability to navigate government websites or difficulties accessing support have contributed to this divide.
Translated COVID information hasn’t always been appropriate for people with low literacy or low health literacy levels. This stems from the original source materials in English not being suitable, or translations not being reviewed to make sure the information makes sense.
Newly arrived migrant communities are most in need, as many don’t have established networks to support them. Translated resources have mostly been developed for larger, established CALD groups rather than new and emerging communities. There’s been a lack of tailoring in how messages and information are communicated, and ethnic newspapers and media haven’t been effectively used.
Some people are worried they’ll lose their jobs if they refuse to get vaccinated. The challenge is they don’t have anyone to ask questions of, and are unable to access trustworthy material online.
One issue that was repeatedly raised was burnout experienced by community leaders and other stakeholders. These leaders are asked to repeatedly translate, turn “government speak into community speak”, spread messages and answer questions. They take on this role in addition to their normal responsibilities, with little to no financial support and often with an emotional burden.
The federal government’s plan recognizes we need to work with community leaders, but little detail has been provided about whether support, training or resources will be available.
Beyond the need to support community leaders, we also heard from participants about ways to improve communication and vaccine delivery.
Our research team makes a number of recommendations, including the need to:
Participants repeatedly used the phrase “community ownership” during the interviews. It’s critical to genuinely engage communities in the development and testing of communication messages, images and videos. It’s also critical we work with different communities to identify the best ways to pass on information.
By supporting the development of community ambassadors to address misinformation and concerns about vaccine safety at a local level, the government will have the best chance of ensuring information reaches those who need it.
Images used courtesy of Pexels/Gustavo Fring
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