Translation on Virginia Department of Health’s website told Spanish readers they didn’t need the COVID-19 vaccine


RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — A Google generated translation on the Virginia Department of Health’s website told Spanish-readers that the COVID-19 vaccine was “not necessary.”

The Virginian Pilot first reported the issue on Monday after a member of the Virginia Vaccination Advisory Workgroup raised concerns about a faulty translation.

The translation in question was part of VDH’s ‘Frequently Asked Questions‘ page that translated “the vaccine is not required” to “la vacuna no es necesaria” — “the vaccine is not necessary.”

Latinos in Virginia have been contracting COVID-19 at alarming rates throughout the pandemic.

Depending on a Spanish-reader’s interpretation this could result in the belief that the vaccine is not needed at all, when in fact it is highly recommended by health experts to reduce one’s chances of contracting the virus.

VDH stands by the translation.

“Many Spanish speakers do read this form as it was intended — namely, to make clear the vaccine is not mandatory and therefore will not be forced on anyone,” director of communications for VDH Maria Reppas told 8News Wednesday in an email.

The state’s health department relies on Google Translate to provide the website’s content in over 90 languages. The tool is available on VDH’s website.

When asked if the FAQ page has been updated, Reppas did not respond.

The translation now says: “La vacuna no será obligatoria para los virginianos y no existen sanciones legales por rechazarla, pero le recomendamos que la obtenga una vez que esté disponible” — “The vaccine will not be mandatory for Virginians and there are no legal penalties for refusing it, but we recommend that you get it once it is available.”

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