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Language: A Major Barrier for Vaccinations.

Language: A Major Barrier for Vaccinations.

On April 28th in Surrey, British Columbia, the Fraser Health Authority had opened up “pop up” clinics in order to mass vaccinate major hot spot areas in Surrey at Newton Athletic Park. This pop-up clinic opened with very communication amongst the public with hundreds showing up at the parks from word-of-mouth. After speaking with a few people in line, I learned that a large portion of these individuals included those who qualify for vaccine booking appointments primarily from migrant communities due to the lack of education of vaccinations.


A recent article from The Tyee discussed the communication barriers during the COVID-19 pandemic for immigrant communities in British Columbia (Cheung, 2021). Online bookings for vaccinations leaves Black Indigenous, and People of Colour (BIPOC)  communities or digital immigrants at a disadvantage with their rollout period. Many immigrants’ communities, face language barriers and misinformation obstacles, especially during the pandemic having to navigate being bombarding by information on the online ethos. With the recent vaccination pop-up clinic in Newton Athletic Park not being reported on publicly by the Fraser Health Authority, many seekers relied on WhatsApp group chats in hopes of obtaining a vaccine at these sites. On the third day of this pop up, many hundreds again lined up as early as 4am to be disappointed as the City of Surrey disbanded the groups and Fraser Health closing pop-up clinics for the time being.


Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, non-profit organizations like the PICS (Progressive intercultural Community Services Society) in Surrey offered a depth of language services to aid non-English speakers with translation services in person. Since the pandemic these services have been limited and restricted, offering more online or over the phone services to aid non-English speakers. For digital immigrants with language barriers this creates a further divide in obtaining efficient and effective translation services and translating up-to-date information on registering for vaccines and updates on COVID-19.


Seniors heavily rely on younger members of their family for translations support, without communication tools in place to assist seniors in our communities from provincial and federal health authorities this is onus on family members solely to communicate this rapid change in communication on a daily basis. For the pop-up clinics and drop-in clinics in Surrey, many seniors are at a vast disadvantage as they require another family member to translate at these events. From my own experience, with roughly 60 people being vaccinated at the facility I assisted a family member at, most attendees were also assisted by another younger family member. Alongside these events, at the pop-up clinic in Newton Athletic Park, there are anti-vaccinate protestors attending these events. Without adequate translators at vaccine facilitates attendees are further exposed to misinformation rhetoric as well as requiring additional steps in securing a spot for vaccination with family translators having to take time off work to attend these events. This has detrimental impacts on BIPOC folk being disproportionately gaining access to vaccinations.

The “pop-up” clinic in Surrey demonstrates a need for stronger communication with BIPOC communities in creating multi-lingual communications tools that can effectively transfer accurate information in real time regarding vaccinations and daily COVID-19 updates. Without creating these tools, we leave many migrants and digital immigrants dwelling behind and vulnerable and unable to disseminate information.



Cheung, Christopher. "The Translator Kids". The Tyee, 2021, Accessed 3 May 2021.



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