Expanding Language Access to COVID-19 Vaccination Materials

Date: April 15, 2021
Time to read: 3 minutes.

Many communities in the United States that use languages other than English face language barriers when trying to access vital health information. Health plans can strive to offer materials and services in language that is accessible and culturally relevant to their members to communicate accurate and timely information and promote COVID-19 vaccination.

L.A. Care, a health plan serving around two million members in L.A. County, including 18,627 dually eligible individuals and 1.1 million Medicaid beneficiaries, provides services to diverse communities that are monolingual in a language other than English. L.A. Care captures members’ preferred language during member outreach calls and tracks their preference in an individualized member profile.

L.A. Care has a dedicated team working to make all member-facing materials—including resources related to COVID-19 and COVID-19 vaccinations—available in the country’s 11 threshold languages (those spoken by 5% or more of the Medicaid population).

  • Currently, L.A. Care’s website is accessible in these languages via a “Select Language” button prominently featured at the top of each page that instantly translates the page’s content into the chosen language. L.A. Care resources include an educational video currently in production about COVID-19 vaccination that will be available in English, Spanish, Mandarin, Korean, and Khmer.
  • Additionally, L.A. Care has started hosting regular Facebook Live events every four to six weeks in English, Spanish, and American Sign Language (ASL). Each session is marketed to members one week in advance via Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, the plan’s website, and member advisory committees. Prior topics have included COVID-19 safety and the importance of flu vaccination to avoid a “twindemic,” which garnered 4,000 and 825 viewers, respectively.
  • L.A. Care also coordinated a Lunar New Year campaign with COVID-19 vaccine promotional materials available in languages used by East Asian communities that traditionally celebrate the holiday. This campaign included mail distribution of face masks and flyers encouraging compliance with current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines during a time when many Asian Americans would normally gather in-person for the holiday.

Additionally, health plans should consider adapting COVID-19 vaccination materials to meet the language needs of blind and Deaf/Hard of Hearing members, as well as those of members with lower literacy. This may include providing information in accessible formats such as sign languages, plain language writing, captioned videos, transcripts of audio materials, large print sizes, and Braille.1 For example, L.A. Care is offering all member materials, including those focused on COVID-19 vaccination, in both large font and audio format to ensure that the language is accessible to blind and low vision members. They notify members of these options via their Evidence of Coverage, member newsletters, member mailings, and their website. Additional resources for communicating information about COVID-19 to people with disability can be found in the CDC communication toolkit.

Additional resources to support communicating essential COVID-19 information to communities who use languages other than English include:

  • The CDC has developed written materials in 34 languages. These resources include vaccine promotion materials, community posters, flyers, fact sheets, and more and are available free at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/communication/print-resources.html?Sort=Date.
  • Additionally, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Office of Minority Health has made COVID-19 resources and downloadable tools available on their website in eight different languages. To learn more about what CMS is doing to support health plans and providers in their effort to connect dually eligible individuals with COVID-19 vaccination, please see our blog post on the topic here.

[1] List of suggestions adapted from https://www.internationaldisabilityalliance.org/acessibility-campaign.