Migrants with strong connections overseas have a different view of COVID

Hamza lives in an extended family household on Queensland’s Gold Coast. Through his experience in advocating for family members with health conditions, he has led and facilitated a national network of consumers and carers from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. 

Hamza’s mother works as a Muslim chaplain providing gender sensitive spiritual care and chaplaincy support in places of worship, local schools and home visits in the community.

Initially, says Hamza, his mother was hesitant about having the vaccine, but then she changed her mind.

“We were getting such bad news from back home, and I think Mum felt that she really wanted to take the vaccination because of her work here in Australia, and to build confidence in our communities, as multicultural communities,” he said.

“There’s been a lot of angst and people overseas are really doing it tough. Mum has lost some friends or people that we know to COVID.”

“Recognising and knowing the very real effects of COVID overseas I think are the really important motivations for Mum as to why she has gone for it,” he says.

“I've talked to friends overseas in the UK where I'm originally from, and the rates of covid, the rates of death, and the difficulty they've experienced are on no scale compared to anything that we've experienced in Australia. It’s not until vaccinations happened in the UK that you started to see rates of transmission really reduce.”

“As a family, we were conscious of the potential risks from vaccination, and we were worried about how quickly they were being developed. As we researched, we came to understand that a lot of resources have been put into them which meant that vaccines became available so quickly. This gave us reassurance to be able to understand the thinking behind it.”

Hamza has been vaccinated and so too have all the adult members of his family. He received his first vaccination hours before the government changed the advice about Astra Zeneca.

“The vaccine doesn't stop covid, but it certainly gives you immunity and reduces the level of transmission and that gives us back a sense of some pathway to normality,” he said.  

“I was very, very nervous and funnily enough the day I got my Astra Zeneca vaccine in April, that evening, the Chief Health Officer announced that they had concerns about the Astra vaccine for the under 50 age group and recommended Pfizer.”

“But as it happens, I have had my first dose and I am fine.”

“Overseas the Astra Zeneca vaccine has been the main vaccine in the UK. There are risks and worries about it and I certainly felt some angst and worry, but having looked at the experience of others, notwithstanding the legitimate concerns, whenever you take any type of medication or vaccination, there is always going to be some form of risk.” 

In Queensland, Hamza works with the World Wellness Group—a multicultural health services provider which established a free state-wide helpline: Multicultural Connect Line. The service helps people affected by the pandemic find access to mental health and community support in their own language.

Like many Australians, Hamza thinks we are exceptionally lucky to be in Australia, and he believes communities are at the heart of Australia’s COVID response.

“We’ve got the ability to act and to mitigate the worst effects of what COVID has been able to unleash in other parts of the world.”

“We want to open up and get back some sense of normality. And that means we’ve really got to pull together, and communities have got to be central to that solution,” he says.