This is a summary, written by members of the CITF Secretariat, of:

Kandasamy S, Manoharan B, Khan Z, Stennett R, Desai D, Nocos R, Wahi G, Banner D, de Souza RJ, Lear SA, Anand SS. Perceptions of COVID-19 risk, vaccine access and confidence: a qualitative description of South Asians in Canada. BMJ Open. 2023 Apr 4;13(4):e070433. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2022-070433.

The results and/or conclusions contained in the research do not necessarily reflect the views of all CITF members.

A CITF-funded study that focused on the South Asian community, now published in BMJ Open, and led by Dr. Sonia Anand (McMaster University) demonstrated that understanding factors such as community dynamics, language, and cultural context can help build vaccine confidence and acceptance among diverse populations. Developing tailored outreach strategies can guide approaches to serve different communities during the current and future pandemics.

Key findings:

  • Whether members of the South Asian community accessed, or had confidence in, COVID-19 vaccines was influenced by:
    • individual risk perceptions, particularly by socio-economic status and age;
    • the degree to which they trusted the sources of information. Participants described the importance of engaging with the community though local news stations, ethnic language media, South Asian networks (i.e., Connect FM, Omni, Sher-E-Punjab), and social media to address barriers in vaccine education. Several participants also emphasized the importance of translating vaccine information into their mother tongue. Language was actually observed to be a consistent barrier to vaccine provision in terms of registration and education;
    • personal experience with public health measures, concern about the psychological effects of COVID-19, intensity of their feelings about vaccination, and how much the pandemic impacted their financial circumstances;
    • experiences with COVID-19 mandates and policies (including temporal and generational differences). Participants questioned inconsistent COVID-19 mandates and policies across different settings and from different media outlets. A few participants discussed generational differences in the South Asian community’s attitudes toward COVID-19 stay-at-home policies and vaccine mandates.
  • Approaches that considered community-specific sensitivities and tailored the outreach accordingly (in terms of language and cultural context) were successful in increasing vaccine acceptance.
  • Public health programs must engage with local influencers and overcome historical sources of mistrust/negative experiences and cultural-linguistic needs.
  • Fostering community partnerships is key to guiding and making recommendations on how to most effectively engage community members (including avenues for communication such as social media platforms and traditional media).
  • Key pieces of information included in vaccine outreach must address individual risk perceptions and acknowledge the broader impacts of pandemic decision-making (e.g., mandates) to build trust.

25 participants (15 from Ontario and 10 from British Columbia) were interviewed between July 8, 2021, and January 30, 2022. Participants included South Asian community members (n=10), South Asian advocacy group leaders (n=9), and public health staff who worked predominantly with the South Asian community (n=6). The ages of the community members ranged from 19- to 69-years-old.