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WebMD Health News: Lost in Translation: Language Barriers Hinder Vaccine Access

April 23, 2021

Infographic of vaccine information in Spanish.

Ensuring language access to COVID-19 vaccinations and other critical pandemic information is essential to any public health campaign. CLC Senior Supervising Attorney Kathy Zeisel and Healthy Together Investigator Laura Camarata spoke with Brenda Goodman of WebMD Health News to share how our non-English-speaking clients experienced difficulties overcoming language access barriers on the District’s pre-registration online portal, and accessing COVID-19 resources generally. Now that DC Health has made its vaccination program language accessible in multiple languages, they also express our hope that the District will continue to prioritize language accessibility in the dissemintation of its programs and services:

Kathy Zeisel, an attorney for the Washington, DC, nonprofit Children’s Law Center, agrees.

Washington enacted a law in 2004 that requires language access for the most commonly spoken languages in the district — Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, French, and Amharic. On April 8, the D.C. Language Access Coaltion sent a letter to Mayor Muriel Bowser saying that a Google Translate button didn’t make the district’s vaccine website accessible enough to people who don’t speak English well.

The district has since agreed to provide professional translations for information on the site.

Laura Camarata, an investigator at Children’s Law Center in Washington, D.C., has been helping people who don’t speak English well to sign up for the vaccine. She’s been hearing many of the same things. Even if they’re able to sign up for an appointment, it’s really hard to get information once there.

“Will the vaccine interact in any way with this condition or with this medication? Really questions that, unfortunately, because of the language, those people weren’t in a position to ask at the clinic,” she said.

Read the full article here. 

Photo credit: Virginia Department of Health/WebMD Health News