While the challenges of COVID-19 are widespread across Victoria and Australia, our goal at the Centre for Migrant and Refugee Health (CMRH) has been building trust, confidence, and resilience with the Victorian Multicultural Populations. We aim to be part of the solution to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic through the acceptance of COVID-19 vaccines.
Negative perceptions towards COVID-19 vaccines are high in CALD Communities. “28.4% of Victorians (1,680,271 persons) were born overseas in more than 200 countries.” (Population Diversity in Victoria: 2016 Census p. 1). Let`s consider how many lives COVID-19 would cost us without getting vaccinated. Despite the systemic healthcare challenges, issues on increasing health expenditure and workforce requirements that will ripple and continue to impact the sector into the future, there are opportunities now.
We aim to support the COVID-19 vaccines campaign. We envision a fully safe, effective, comprehensive vaccination education strategy for the community to aid them to accept the COVID-19 vaccination.
Vaccine hesitancy is a tremendous challenge in vaccine rollout. It is attitudes and perceptions that create refusal or reluctance towards vaccines despite their availability or could be a result of doubts and complacency upon vaccine effectiveness and efficacy. Fear is human nature that could be triggered by the unknown, which is a typical attitude across the race. Although the refusal of an individual to get vaccinated may appear minimal, the implications are potentially significant on the public health outcomes. The lack of enthusiasm in the COVID-19 vaccine creates recurring infections, thus the potential for high rates of morbidities and mortalities.
An increase in vaccine acceptance in the community aims to address hesitancy by countering mis- and disinformation with messages guided by science and fact-based public health literature. Building trust and confidence in combating hesitancy could only be achieved when you empower communities and health workers. Through their availability to provide trusted, and credible information and resources that the communities are more receptive to viewing, listening or reading.
A vital action to ease the healthcare challenges both workforce and fiscally, in part is to overcome COVID-19 hesitancy through supporting Multicultural Community-based organisations. By providing these grass-roots organisations with existing connections to their communities a public health stream of education and campaigning. Creating an awareness that flows from national and state headwaters through to the tributary levels of diverse local communities will ensure the appropriate and consistent messaging is delivered.
It is possible to address the challenges of vaccine hesitancy to save lives. However, what the community needs most is to act instrumentally to addressing and finding solutions to overcome the difficulties of vaccine refusal. Therefore, improved opportunities to overcome identified barriers. The education campaign would be providing vital information to diverse, high-risk, and hard-to-reach populations, especially with information via “trusted local messengers”. By also simplifying the vaccination process and reinforcing essential COVID-19 prevention and public health control measures.
Our desire at CMRH is to devote and commit to vaccination education and campaigning to a whole community providing life-saving work for, by and with the multicultural communities. It is crucial that the Victorian Government should put forward a robust public health response strategy for the vulnerable and isolated communities to build trust and confidence in undertaking the COVID-19 vaccine.
Working towards high vaccination rates in our multicultural communities is progress in the right direction and continued improvement in addressing these challenges of vaccine hesitancy. Otherwise, we may lose the hard-earned progress the Federal and Victorian Governments have already made.