Refugee, immigrant, and migrant (RIM) communities experience numerous challenges to successful vaccination efforts, many of which stem from concerns about COVID-19 and vaccines, especially as it applies within their community, as well as a well-founded lack of trust in governmental organizations and systems. Common questions from RIM communities about the COVID-19 vaccine include:
- The potential short- and long-term side effects
- Fears that the vaccine may not be safe
- Worries that the vaccine may not work or be effective
Dispelling myths and alleviating apprehensions around vaccination requires a trusted relationship and a safe, non-judgmental environment for individuals to voice their concerns and ask questions. The International Rescue Committee (IRC) recognizes this and has begun using a traditional communication method creatively.
COVID-19 Vaccine Facts Flyers
The IRC offices are leveraging any client interactions as ample opportunities to initiate a conversation with RIM individuals about the COVID-19 vaccine. IRC staff members are handing out COVID-19 vaccine flyers to all clients regardless of the reason for that client’s visit – be it a health appointment, case management, immigration, employment service, youth programming, etc. Staff distribute the flyers at the end of appointments or meetings and share materials with local community leaders for dissemination through their networks. Though some RIM individuals may experience lower health literacy or are pre-literate, these materials can serve as a conversation starter as staff members read through the flyer with clients. RIM individuals are also able to take the handouts home to share with their families and friends.
The flyers introduce the idea of the COVID-19 vaccine to RIM individuals with whom IRC comes into contact. They are not assumed to change minds or answer all questions. The purpose is to let RIM communities know that IRC staff are available and open to discussing the vaccine and that IRC can provide access to further information for those interested.
IRC’s COVID-19 Vaccine Facts Flyers in Practice
The IRC has created “COVID-19 Vaccine Facts” flyers translated into 14 languages. These flyers are available on the NRC-RIM website and can be downloadable and used by other organizations. The brief flyer is designed to spark conversation and questions about the COVID-19 vaccine with IRC staff. The goal is to decrease vaccine hesitancy in those with future eligibility to receive the vaccine through non-judgmental conversations with trusted staff. The flyers share 6-7 facts (depending on the target community) which include:
- The vaccine is safe and effective. It was tested on tens of thousands of people from different races, ethnic groups, genders, and ages
- The vaccine cannot give you COVID-19
- Having side effects (flu-like symptoms) FOR A DAY OR TWO is normal and means the vaccine is working!
- When eligible, you can get the vaccine. Insurance and immigration status does not matter
- The vaccine does NOT change your DNA
- The vaccine is halal
- Stay safe after being vaccinated by wearing a mask, staying 6 feet (2 meters) apart, and washing your hands often
IRC staff also provided guidance materials to enable staff to feel confident and equipped to have these conversations regardless of their role. The guidance includes a list of commonly asked questions about the COVID-19 vaccine with answers in plain language and links to culturally and linguistically appropriate resources that RIM individuals can access for additional information (e.g., NRC-RIM videos and graphics).
Another way IRC offices have shared the flyers is through “COVID-19 kits” – bags of necessities delivered to RIM individuals. These include thermometers, over-the-counter medicine, food, children’s activities, and flyers. Other offices share flyers in kits placed on the door handles of apartments in a complex they visit for testing and vaccination, with others passing out flyers at testing sites.
- Common Questions, Helpful Responses: How Client-Facing Staff Can Help Answer COVID-19 Vaccine Questions
- Webinar Recording: Practical Approaches for Discussing COVID -19 Vaccines with Clients
- Multilingual COVID-19 Fact Sheets
- Vaccine 101 Training: Information for Organizations Serving RIM Communities