Locals say multilingual vaccine awareness campaign will fight misinformation, encourage action

On Wednesday, several community partners launched a public education campaign to inform eligible residents about the vaccine rollout.

'People trust information more when it's in their mother tongue'

Alia Youssef, trilingual marketing specialist, says the information is coming a bit late and she'd like to see the region get more creative with their method of delivery. But she notes that having information in different languages is extremely important for public trust and action. (Jennifer La Grassa/CBC)

The rollout of a multilingual education campaign on vaccinations in Windsor-Essex is vital, according to resident Alia Youssef, but she says it's coming out a little late. 

On Wednesday, several community partners launched a public education campaign to inform eligible residents about the vaccine rollout. In a news release, the City of Windsor said it was important to get this information out considering more than a quarter of those living in the region are born outside of Canada. 

"I think for a community like Windsor, it's significantly important," said Youssef, a trilingual marketing specialist who speaks English, French and Arabic.

"People trust information more when it's in their mother tongue ... I just imagine a grandparent reading information about the vaccine published by the Canadian government or WEVax and it's in Arabic. I think they would think it's safer to trust than some random post they read online, in English that they barely understand." 

Yet, it's something she thinks should have happened a lot sooner. 

But acting pastor Junior Garcia for Windsor Spanish Company, a Seventh day Adventist church, says any time is the right time. 

"Misinformation causes a lot of stress, anxiety, a lot of panic ... I would say it's never too late to get proper information to everybody," he said. 

Imagine a billboard in Windsor in Arabic or in Farsi or in Urdu, I think that would really resonate ... people would actually take action and go to take the vaccine.- Alia Youssef

A two-page flyer is available and answers common questions related to the vaccination process including eligibility, clinic locations and what to expect during the appointment, the city said in its release. 

The flyer has been translated into the top 10 languages spoken in the region based on the 2016 Statistics Canada census. These languages include: 

  • Arabic.
  • Cantonese.
  • French.
  • Italian.
  • Polish. 
  • Punjabi. 
  • Serbian. 
  • Somali. 
  • Spanish. 
  • Urdu. 

The local website to book vaccine appointments, WEVax, also includes a text-to-speech, reading and translation of web pages to make the content more accessible. This tool can put out the content in more than 100 languages and is accessible through the ear icon on the site. 

Region should use other methods to target groups

But Youssef said there's more that can be done.

She said the channel with which the information is distributed is very important and suggested the region's health officials take advantage of platforms like billboards or radio stations for older generations and social media for younger groups. 

"Especially if it's a good campaign and it's something that's funny and educational at the same time," she said.

"Imagine a billboard in Windsor in Arabic or in Farsi or in Urdu, I think that would really resonate ... people would actually take action and go to take the vaccine."  

She says the information isn't easily accessible and local health officials need a strong marketing campaign to better inform and engage members of the community. 

Some of that engagement has already been done by Laure Khalil's team at the YMCA of Southwestern Ontario. 

Laure Khalil, manager of settlement at YMCA Southwestern Ontario, says her team has worked to inform newcomers about COVID-19. (Jennifer La Grassa/CBC)

Khalil, manager of settlement, says since the start of the pandemic they have been talking to newcomer families and connecting them to health unit resources. 

"We can see that there is a need for multilingual information like this to be out and available, accessible," she said. "When I read something in the language that I speak for example, I feel like I'm included, this is targeting me so I should really be focusing on the information and also it will give me a sense of responsibility." 

She said they have received questions from newcomers about the vaccines such as when the next phase is starting, if they are eligible and if the shot is free. 

Khalil said in response they direct them to the public health unit's site and help them navigate the language tool to translate the page. 

Since the pandemic began, Khalil says her team has worked to provide COVID-19 updates on YMCA's Facebook page in a range of languages. 

The education campaign is being rolled out by the City of Windsor, the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit, Windsor Regional Hospital, Erie Shores HealthCare, the Multicultural Council of Windsor and Essex County and the Windsor-Essex County Local Immigration Partnership. 


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