The multilingual how, why and what of vaccination

There was good news on Monday if, like many of us reading news or information about vaccination, you sometimes struggle to tell your adjuvants from your antigens and morbidity from mortality. 

But stop a moment to consider: imagine how much harder it would be if all the technical information was presented in your second language – English.

Now, a collaboration between NSW Health and UNSW Sydney associate professor Holly Seale has produced a COVID-19 vaccination glossary, which aims to provide plain language meanings to complex immunisation and vaccine development and terms.

And – here’s the cool bit – the glossary will be distributed across Australia in 31 languages, including Arabic, Farsi, Hindi, Swahili and Tibetan.

Seale, who works at UNSW Sydney’s School of Population Health, led the development of the glossary, which is designed to assist community leaders and organisations.

“It’s important that accurate information about the individual COVID-19 vaccines and the vaccination program is communicated to support the community’s understanding and confidence in the COVID-19 vaccination program,” Seale told UNSW Sydney’s newsroom.

“Information about the vaccines can include complex medical terminology, which we do not always use in normal conversations about immunisation.”

Those who contributed to the glossary include experts working in vaccine development, in immunisation program and policy roles, and those working to support Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Communities (CALD) communities.

The terms were reviewed by National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters (NAATI) certified translators and communication experts. The literacy levels were tested using an online tool developed by Sydney Health.

“The glossary was developed to help community organisations, translators and interpreters, bilingual workers, and community leaders better understand and communicate words and terminology about vaccine development and implementation,” Seale says.

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