Refugee, immigrant, and migrant (RIM) communities experience numerous challenges to successful vaccination, many of which stem from a different understanding of COVID-19 and vaccines, especially as it applies within their own community, as well as a well-founded lack of trust in governmental organizations and systems. This can specifically hinder COVID-19 vaccine roll-out efforts as communities may have additional questions about COVID-19 vaccines’ safety and efficacy, or hesitate to attend a vaccination event because of the government’s involvement.
Physician-Driven Vaccine Outreach
Physicians and other healthcare providers are frequently viewed as leaders and trusted sources of information, especially if they are from the communities they serve. These physicians are often highly committed to the health of their community, in addition to their individual patients. They are valuable educators who can act as a bridge to provide accurate and applicable COVID-19 vaccine-related information to patients and communities. They are also uniquely suited to offer recommendations and advocate for optimizing vaccine access since they are aware of logistical challenges experienced by their patients and communities and hold a professional position. In vaccine planning, outreach should occur in local RIM healthcare provider organizations, as well as with respected community professionals that are engaged in understanding of local community barriers to vaccination. Outreach in these organizations can help to solicit ideas to overcome these barriers, and assist with vaccine outreach and messaging.
Somali Medical Association of America
The Somali Medical Association of America, a non-profit organization of physicians from the Somali community, has recently begun a COVID-19 task force with the goals of providing education and promoting equitable distribution of vaccines, especially within their communities. They facilitate live videos on Facebook and participate in talk shows with TPT/Twin Cities PBS and Somali news organizations to provide vaccine education. They have partnered with well-known religious leaders, such as Sheikh Abdi Hersy and the Somali North American Business and Professionals Inc, in these efforts and are currently working with Islamic Association of North America to create media in Somali about the vaccine. The task force is also assisting with the vaccine distribution efforts of multiple local health organizations and plans to facilitate vaccination opportunities at local mosques.