Multicultural News

Indy Burmese agency works to expand COVID-19 vaccine access

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Burmese refugees and immigrants in Indiana are seeing high rates of vaccination, and local agencies say their work to get more vaccinated isn’t done.

The Burmese American Community Institute says roughly 80% of community members in Indianapolis who are eligible to be vaccinated get the shots. They said this is a major milestone as the country recently recognized World Refugee Day.

Refugees and immigrants often face health care barriers. Language is a huge part of that.

“I was born in Myanmar. The importance of this I understand personally because my parents don’t understand English,” said Dawot Zi.

Multiple languages are spoken in Burma, so communicating with other local Burmese citizens can be a challenge. It’s a challenge BACI –the Burmese American Community Institute– and its partners are facing head on.

“I was able to explain in our own language, and they were able to understand the importance of getting their vaccine,” said Zi.

She is coordinating the Community Vaccination Week. Over the course of several days, transportation to vaccine location, translation and more will be more widely available to the Indianapolis Burmese population.

“t’s important that every single one of them understand,” she said in reference to COVID-19 information.

With so many languages represented, one flyer isn’t enough. And with many families having no one else able to help translate, this is a major resource.

“They come often with little or no English. And they are placed in completely different environments in terms of systems,” said executive director Elasia Vahnie.

He said 10 years ago, when Indianapolis first started seeing an influx of Burmese refugees, there wasn’t much — if any — health care assistance in place.

“We have seen much, much better service in terms of how they go and engage as refugees, and how doctors and nurses are welcoming them into the clinics.”

So along with the rest of the world, they’ve been making a push to get people vaccinated, adding that part of a successful society is a healthy one.

“This whole part of vaccination campaign is also to ensure refugees and newcomers are becoming successfully integrated and productive citizens in society,” said Vahnie.

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