Grass roots approach supports culturally and linguistically diverse communities to get vaccinated

As part of the Australian Government’s drive to increase COVID-19 vaccinations in culturally and linguistically diverse populations, from October 2021 to December 2022 WA Primary Health Alliance implemented a grass roots approach to increase vaccine uptake in these hard-to-reach communities, with great results.

Using our knowledge of areas of high culturally and linguistically diverse populations coupled with data highlighting low vaccine uptake, we were able to initiate a highly targeted outreach program. As well as connecting with organisations known to us, such as general practice, we took a leap of faith and contacted non-traditional partners that are highly embedded in culturally and linguistically diverse communities. This allowed for even greater penetration and was instrumental in our success.

Focusing on a combination of local general practices, community organisations and other groups, we provided funding for extra vaccination clinics, community information sessions and resources, and connecting vaccinating agencies with community groups.

This program allowed us to reach out to more than 100 organisations to access at risk culturally and linguistically diverse communities throughout the Perth metropolitan area, including the Italian, Chinese, Malaysian, Vietnamese, Afghan, African, Serbian, Macedonian, Polish, Croatian, Indian and South Sudanese communities.

Funding for 12 Perth metropolitan-based general practices to run additional COVID-19 vaccination clinics, resulted in more than 2,000 COVID-19 vaccinations being administered to culturally and linguistically diverse community members. Some practices used the skills of their own multicultural staff to support the rollout; for example, one of Willetton Family Practice’s registered nurses ran an information session for the Tamil community.

Rates of vaccination among culturally and linguistically diverse communities increased significantly across the state from December 2021 to December 2022, with first dose coverage increasing from 80% to over 95% and second dose coverage increasing from 74% to over 95%.[1]

As well as increasing awareness of and access to COVID-19 vaccinations, the work WA Primary Health Alliance undertook has built a solid foundation for future initiatives that will support the health and wellbeing of WA’s culturally and linguistically diverse communities. This includes the development of a framework focusing on multicultural communities to be launched later this year, one of three foundational documents that will guide our journey towards cultural competency, diversity and inclusion, to ensure all people can access equitable, safe, and inclusive primary health care.

[1] Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care, Australian Immunisation Register, extract 11 December 2022