AARP’s covid tele-town hall spotlights Asian American and Pacific Islanders

New York: AARP hosted a national coronavirus Tele-Town Hall focused on “Coronavirus, Vaccines, and Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders” on April 22. The livestreamed event involved a panel discussion among health experts who also answered live questions from callers all over the country about: how to stay safe and protected from the coronavirus and prevent the further spread, virus variants and vaccines, vaccine distribution, and ways to identify misinformation, fraud and scams.

Guest speakers included Lieutenant Adelaida M. Rosario of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services; Dr. Alka Kanaya, Professor of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco; Dr. Mary Joy Garcia-Dia, President of the Philippine Nurses Association of America (PNAA); and Daphne Kwok, AARP Vice President of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Asian American and Pacific Islander Audience Strategy. The panel was moderated by John Yang, National Correspondent for the PBS NewsHour.

The panel started with an acknowledgement of the Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) community’s unique challenges faced during the pandemic. The speakers agreed that AANHPIs have had issues with obtaining information about the pandemic and the availability of the vaccines due to language barriers, a low level of familiarity with computer technology, misinformation, distrust in government, and a misunderstanding of the vaccines or the science behind the vaccines. The speakers also recognized that there are different solutions and approaches to these challenges. 

“The AANHPI community is extremely diverse and therefore, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach with communications,” said Dr. Rosario. 

Many of the speakers shared that there is a benefit for the community when materials are produced in their languages and when those materials are shared through trusted leaders of community-based organizations or trusted staff members at local health centers to share information.

A barrier unique to the Asian American community is the recent increase in the violence. Dr. Rosario said, “It becomes a ‘double pandemic’ essentially for all of our older Asian American community members because they’re dealing with all of this awful discrimination in addition to, layered with, this health crisis. There’s something to be said about the disproportionate mental health impact that our community is dealing with.”

On behalf of AARP, Kwok denounced the hate crimes: “AARP strongly condemns all racially motivated violence and harassment, and AARP stands with the Asian American community. Racism is a public health issue.” She added that the assaults had been “causing fear, especially for our older members, and the fear is keeping them from making their medical appointments and getting their vaccine. Fortunately, I know there are volunteers helping out at the local level, like accompanying elders to their appointments.” 

Image courtesy of thesatimes | Welcome to The South Asian Times

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