A patient consulting with a doctor via telehealth

Bridging Communication Gaps in the COVID-19 Vaccine Roll Out

Health care providers face a challenge in educating the global public about the vaccine

As COVID-19 vaccines are being approved and distributed to health care professionals in several countries, the greatest vaccine deployment in recent history is underway. The United States, the United Kingdom and the European Union are all prioritizing health care workers, residents and employees of long-term care facilities and the elderly among other groups disproportionately affected by the pandemic. The process becomes much more complex once vaccinations start to reach the general public sometime this spring.

Government, private sector companies and nonprofits now face a massive communications challenge: how to clearly and effectively educate people across the world about access, approval and safety concerning the vaccine. Once the vaccine is administered, healthcare providers will need to stay in touch with recipients to track possible side effects and ensure that they receive the second dose on time. Lionbridge’s over the phone interpreters can help bridge communication gaps with limited English proficient (LEP) patients in over 350 different languages.

Telehealth will be Integral to the Vaccine Rollout

No matter what language they speak, vaccine recipients need to be able to communicate with their primary care provider to ask questions about the vaccine, including which vaccine may be right for them, which vaccines have been approved and when and how they may receive the vaccine. Vaccine recipients also need to be able to report any side effects they may experience, which can range from the more common headache or fatigue, to extremely rare allergic reactions.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, telehealth has emerged as a popular tool to help patients connect with their doctors without potential exposure to the coronavirus. Although all COVID-19 vaccinations will take place in person, telehealth will prove to be a valuable way for patients to ask their health care providers any follow up questions or as a way to assuage concerns about getting vaccinated. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, Moderna vaccine and Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, which are already being distributed in several countries, require two doses for full immunity. In the United States, vaccine recipients are handed record cards in English and Spanish, which list the date the vaccine was administered and by whom. Health care providers are already recognizing the importance of a multilingual strategy in deploying the COVID-19 vaccine and ensuring that speakers of all languages can get their questions about the vaccine answered.

A patient consulting with a doctor via telehealth

Creating a Clear Communication Plan

As countries around the world have started to distribute vaccines, a comprehensive, clear communication plan has proved integral to aiding vaccine rollout and dispelling misinformation. A December Kaiser Family Foundation survey found that 85% of respondents trust their own doctor or health care provider for reliable vaccine information. Clear, accessible information from medical professionals and government agencies, available in a plurality of languages, can help put people at ease about taking the vaccine.

In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control has asked that states develop a comprehensive communications plan around vaccination, ensuring that the communications plan will respond to the needs and concerns of different population groups. Language is a key component of reaching everyone who needs to receive the vaccine: Some 51 million Americans speak a language other than English at home. Communities of color, which can include speakers with limited English proficiency, have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. Therefore, providing information on the vaccine for people from all backgrounds, speaking all languages, is a matter of equity.

How Lionbridge Can Help

For public and private sector service providers seeking to inform, educate and communicate with the general public—including people speaking with the general public—Lionbridge is here to help. Our on-demand, 24/7 telephonic interpretation service is available to any service provider requiring live language support to ensure effective and sensitively handled conversations in over 350 languages. Our patented highly secure real-time text translation engine can also be integrated into any SMS, messaging, chatbot, WhatsApp or email-based application to enable text-based information push in hundreds of languages, along with text-based language-agnostic conversations with service agents that overcome language barriers.

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