Department’s translated health advice about COVID vaccines months out of date

By Melissa Coade

August 13, 2021

Richard Colbeck
Aged care services minister Richard Colbeck. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)

Health professionals have identified that translated information about COVID-19 vaccines, including which age groups in the community should seek out AstraZeneca, on the federal health department is months out of date. 

The Australian health department updated its information since the ABC broke the news about the communication bungle on Thursday.

The failure to update the COVID-19 online information for eight weeks in some cases led to advice that AstraZeneca was the preferred vaccines for Australians over 50. That official advice had changed in June, and then again for residents living in outbreak areas in Greater Sydney, where the risk of being infected with the virus has grown.

Federal government data on vaccination rates to August showed that uptake in western Sydney, where there are high numbers of CALD residents, is among the lowest in the state of NSW. It is also one of the most impacted areas in Sydney due to the community transmission of the COVID Delta variant.

Elfa Moraitakis, CEO of SydWest Multicultural Services, told SBS News that the health department’s outdated information had frustrated community leaders who were attempting to help better inform their communities. 

“It is unjust to our diverse communities in Western Sydney not to have access to accurate information,” Moraitakis siad. 

“[And some] people wonder why the community feels alienated and isolated from the rest of the city?”  

The health department issued a statement that said it was committed to providing timely and reliable information to CALD communities.

“While every effort is made to ensure that translated materials are updated immediately, it is equally important that translations are accurate for the 63 in-language web pages that provide vital information for CALD communities,” a health spokesperson told SBS News.

Responding to a question in parliament about the lag in updated public health information, aged care services minister Richard Colbeck acknowledged that the eight-week delay to provide translations about essential vaccine information was too long. 

“It should have been updated sooner, it should not have taken eight weeks,” Colbeck said. 

“Communication is extremely important and this information should have been updated sooner.” 

Shadow health minister Mark Butler said ensuring credible sources of information stayed updated in the current climate was essential.

“There’s got to be more targeted information of a high quality,” Butler told reporters in Canberra.

“And the most basic thing is to ensure those information points, including the government’s own website, are kept up to date.”

During Question Time, health minister Greg Hunt said the government was using channels including social media, television, and advertising to ‘make sure messages are provided to the culturally and linguistically diverse communities’.


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