Community Groups Set Pace In Australia's Vaccination Race
Umer Jamshaid 14 days ago Sat 11th September 2021 | 09:40 AM
Sydney, Sept 11 (UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News - 11th Sep, 2021 ) :Community groups in Australia's Covid-hit cities are battling misinformation in multiple languages as they race to vaccinate a way out of "traumatic" lockdowns.
Beneath the minarets of a mosque in west Sydney, 500 people are booked in for vaccine appointments at a pop-up clinic -- part of a burgeoning network of initiatives by minority communities trying to fill a void left by Australia's mostly Anglo-centric officialdom.
For many, it is the longest time they have been out of their homes in weeks.
"They just want to go back to work, they want to go back to life," said Omar Moussawel, one of those getting jabbed to end Sydney's nearly three month lockdown.
Myths, fears and outright misinformation -- notably about the AstraZeneca vaccine -- were allowed to spread largely unchallenged.
Khaled Kamalmaz, a health coordinator with the Lebanese Muslim Association, remembers such misinformation spreading rapidly across languages.
"We've had to step in and, you know, try to change the narrative," Kamalmaz said.
The group enlisted sheikhs and religious leaders to get themselves jabbed as an example and to counter damaging misinformation. Communities also partnered with local government authorities increasingly aware of the issue.
"Word of mouth is very powerful in this area," he told AFP. "There's a big elderly population in this area that is still very reluctant to have the vaccination, especially with the AstraZeneca." Andre Renzaho from Western Sydney University's Translational Health Research Institute believes "the government still hasn't played enough role to dispel those myths." "I can guarantee the impact of WhatsApp, Messenger, TikTok within CALD (Culturally and Linguistically Diverse) communities is far greater than government can imagine," he said.
"It's much more traumatic than last year," said Peter Doukas, chair of the Ethnic Communities Council of New South Wales.
He spent five days in his apartment with his wife and then one-year-old child, unable to leave his home for any reason.
"We were treated differently. The government must take responsibility and apologise," he said.
But even as Sydney's outbreak has worsened, spiralling into over a thousand cases a day, there are signs community efforts are working.
Vaccine hesitancy has slowly given way to demand.
Areas with large minority populations are among those leading the vaccination charge.
On and his team delivered over 3,000 jabs in under a month.
Moustafa Fahour, the founder of the Islamic Museum of Australia has been making hundreds of calls daily with a small team of volunteers, helping people access everything from government support to homeschooling tips.
"The community is standing up in their own right, and some with the support of government, to really combat and tackle the language gaps."