Messaging to Reduce Risk in Areas with Lower Vaccination Rates

The availability of accurate COVID-19 information that is culturally and linguistically relevant is essential to keeping communities safe. Messages change rapidly and some health departments may face challenges with developing health messaging that reaches all communities, particularly refugees, immigrants, and migrants (RIM). 

Promoting Layered Risk Mitigation

Now that a COVID-19 vaccine has been developed and found to be safe and effective for individuals aged 12 and older, many public health departments and healthcare workers are understandably focusing their messaging to RIM communities on the vaccine. However, this may mean that there is relatively less messaging about the continued importance of other risk mitigation measures like wearing masks, social distancing, and avoiding crowded spaces to reduce the spread of COVID-19. In areas with lower vaccination rates and among populations with a degree of vaccine hesitancy, it is vitally important to promote a layered approach to risk mitigation.

When discussing risk mitigation with parents and children from RIM communities, consider including the following layers:

  • Vaccination is the leading measure to help slow transmission and eventually end the COVID-19 pandemic. Fully vaccinated individuals have a much lower risk of serious illness, hospitalization, and death than unvaccinated individuals.
  • Social distancing continues to be an important measure for slowing transmission. A useful guideline is to keep a distance of 6 feet between you and people who don’t live in your household whenever possible. Remember that some people who have COVID-19 don’t show any symptoms but can still spread the virus.
  • Masking and covering coughs and sneezes are still important measures for reducing the spread of COVID-19. Wearing a well-fitting mask properly over the nose and mouth is particularly important in crowded indoor spaces, like public buses and trains.
  • Avoiding crowded public spaces whenever possible remains an important measure for slowing transmission. 
  • Washing your hands or using hand sanitizer is still an important measure for preventing infection and slowing the rate of community transmission. It’s especially important to wash your hands before touching your face or handling food, and after touching anything in a public place.
  • If a family member becomes sick with COVID-19, it’s important to maintain distance from that family member if possible, wear a mask when interacting with them, and wash your hands frequently to prevent infection. It’s also crucial to avoid sharing plates, cups, or utensils with that family member while they are sick. These continue to be key risk mitigation measures for everyone in the household.
  • If you develop symptoms, getting tested is still vitally important. Follow your health provider’s advice and CDC guidelines about how to monitor your symptoms and keep people around you safe.

Talking with Families in Florida 

Conscientious nurses and case managers with the Florida Department of Health have been taking every opportunity they can to talk to parents from RIM communities about getting their children vaccinated. They recognize that each interaction with families is part of a longer conversation, and that it takes time to build trust and confidence in the vaccine. But regardless of whether the parents choose vaccination for their children at the time of a particular interaction, their final message to RIM families is always a reminder about the many things they can keep doing to reduce everyone’s risk of infection: wearing masks correctly and consistently, socially distancing, avoiding crowded venues, and washing or sanitizing their hands.

The nurses’ conversations have primarily been occurring in the Refugee Health Program’s clinical location. With the assistance of the three Refugee Health Case Managers, the Florida Department of Health has also been able to participate in community forums (via Zoom and Facebook) and collaborate with resettlement agencies in providing virtual and in-person education about layered risk mitigation.

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