Many refugee, immigrant and migrant (RIM) community members experience significant logistical barriers to COVID-19 vaccination. As vaccine allocation and expanded eligibility increases across the United States, many vaccine campaigns rely on internet-based registration and utilize locations that accommodate large numbers of people for vaccine administration. This strategy can be ineffective for many RIM communities due to a variety of factors. Limited English proficiency or technology capability can prevent successful registration while transportation barriers impact the ability to reach the location where vaccines are administered. Additionally, the complexity of navigating a large and confusing vaccination site with unfamiliar staff is intimidating, resulting in yet another barrier to vaccination.
COVID-19 Vaccine Recruitment and Registration through Trusted Messengers
One strategy to address these challenges among RIM communities is to encourage COVID-19 vaccine registration and recruitment through trusted messengers. These messengers, oftentimes community leaders, will be uniquely positioned to deliver culturally and linguistically appropriate COVID-19 vaccine information and be able to interpret and translate relevant information for COVID-19 vaccine registration.
Recruiting Trusted Messengers for COVID-19 Vaccine Sign Up in Illinois
The Champaign Urbana Public Health District (CUPHD) has developed relationships with the RIM community and worked collectively with many refugee and immigrant-serving agencies to build an Immigrant Cooperative, which provides a multi-sectoral approach to meeting the social and health needs of RIM communities. During the COVID-19 response, this network of agencies was able to quickly identify trusted messengers in the community and utilize their knowledge, skills, and language abilities to provide interpretation support for specific RIM dialects and languages at COVID-19 testing and vaccination sites. As the CUPHD provided COVID-19 vaccine distribution across the county, the health department allocated a specific amount of COVID-19 vaccine every week for harder-to-reach, more vulnerable communities including RIM communities. The health department utilized the trusted messengers to identify and recruit eligible RIM community members to participate in the COVID-19 vaccine efforts. Additionally, the health department delivered updates on COVID-19 vaccine allocations and other relevant health updates to trusted messengers within the RIM community that included information shared from community health partners.