COVID-19 information letting down international students, non-English speakers

James Coleman 3 August 2021
Foreign students at the University of Canberra

Connecting with students has been a challenge during the pandemic. Photo: Supplied.

Many international students and temporary visa holders are struggling to grapple with information about the COVID-19 vaccine situation here in the ACT.

Chinese student Dahlia is a recent graduate from the Australian National University (ANU) who currently works in a department store while on a student-dependent visa. She says that many non-English speakers like her are relying on news from China about what is happening in Australia regarding vaccines.

“Many are unsure about which vaccine is right for them – AstraZeneca or Pfizer – whether they’re even eligible, and how to go about getting it,” she said.

Most of the information the local Chinese community are getting is trickling through social media platforms such as WeChat, Chinese community organisations, or news websites that translate articles for the Mandarin-speaking community, such as RiotACT China. Student unions at the ANU and University of Canberra (UC) also try to keep their international students in the loop.

Dahlia says the official government sources aren’t very helpful for those who struggle with English, even with good news such as vaccine eligibility.


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A spokesman for ACT Health has confirmed with Region Media that international students and other temporary visa holders are included in the roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccine.

“COVID-19 vaccines are free for everyone in Australia, even if you are not an Australian citizen or permanent resident. This includes people without a Medicare card, overseas visitors, international students, migrant workers and asylum seekers.”

The ACT’s COVID-19 vaccination program is being delivered in phases, in line with the national rollout.

It currently includes anyone aged 70 years and older, all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 16 years and older, anyone with an underlying medical condition or disability aged 16 years and older, pregnant women aged 16 years and older, aged-care and high-risk workers, household contacts of quarantine and border workers, and some volunteer carers.

People aged between 30 and 39 years can still register for a vaccination appointment, and will be able to receive the Pfizer vaccine from Tuesday (10 August). Once registered, you will be notified when an appointment becomes available.

Everyone can double-check vaccine eligibility using the Vaccine Eligibility Checker. The checker displays a list of doctors’ practices and vaccination clinics where you’ll be able to get the jab.

You can also book via the phone on the Vaccination Line at 02 5124 7700, which is open 7:00 am to 7:00 pm daily, or online using the ACT Government’s Digital Health Record (DHR) website. If you don’t yet have an account with the DHR, you can create one for free.

COVID-19 vaccines, and your appointments to receive the vaccine are free.

For more information on the COVID-19 vaccine, visit the ACT Health website.


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