Multilingualism Research Forum/ Flerspråklighetsforum: Linguistic diversity, trust, and vaccine inequalities: the role of interpreters in the COVID-19 vaccination campaign in Italy

Andrea Ciribuco (Lecturer, NUI Galway/ Fellow, University College London) and Federico M. Federici (Professor, University College London) will discuss the role of interpreters in the COVID-19 vaccination campaign in Italy.


In June 2021, a report from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control warned about “emerging evidence of low COVID-19 vaccination rates in some migrant and ethnic minority groups in the EU/EEA”. Health inequalities between migrant communities and local populations are often the result of social and economic inequalities. However, cultural differences and linguistic diversity may contribute to prevent migrants from accessing trusted information in a language that they can understand, as per the guidelines of the World Health Organisation (WHO 2017).

Drawing on semi-structured interviews with intercultural communicators and commissioners of language services for migrant communities, this paper looks at the COVID-19 vaccination campaign in two areas of Italy, Rome and the Emilia-Romagna region. The paper will explore the role of linguistic differences, and of the (un)availability of multilingual information, in generating vaccine hesitancy among Italian-based migrants. It also presents the efforts of interpreters and cultural mediators who have worked to reduce vaccine inequality by acting as a bridge between medical personnel and migrant communities.

The talk will reflect on the challenges that mediators encountered at both linguistic and social level, and how they met those challenges by building relations of trust with both medical personnel and target populations.


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Andrea Ciribuco

Andrea Ciribuco is a lecturer in Italian in the School of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures at NUI Galway. As honorary fellow at the Centre for Translation Studies at University College London, he is involved in the British Academy- funded project STRIVE (Sustainable Translations to Reduce Inequalities and Vaccination hEsitancy). Previously, between 2017 and 2021, he has worked as an Irish Research Council / Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellow in Italy to research multilingualism and intercultural communication in refugee reception centres, working in collaboration with the Italian NGO Tamat ( His work concerns multilingualism and creativity; migrant autobiographies; and the social implications of translation in the everyday lives of migrants and refugees. He is the author of the volume The Autobiography of a Language. Emanuel Carnevali's Italian/American Writing (2019). He is a member of the Transnational Italian Studies Working Group.

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Federico M. Federici

Federico M. Federici is Professor of Intercultural Crisis Communication at the Centre for Translation Studies, University College London. Previously, he designed the curriculum, founded, and directed the EMT MA in Translation Studies at Durham University, UK (2008-2014). His research focuses on translators and interpreters as intercultural mediators, online news translation, and the study of translation in crises. His latest edited volume is entitled Language as a Social Determinant of Health (2022). Federico was member of the EU-funded INTERACT Crisis Translation Network (2017-2020) led by Sharon O’Brien (Dublin City University) with whom he is developing cross-disciplinary projects in Crisis Translation. Federico is the principal investigator of the project STRIVE: Sustainable Translations to Reduce Inequalities and Vaccination hEsitancy, funded by the British Academy.


Published Feb. 22, 2022 9:59 AM - Last modified Mar. 4, 2022 11:54 AM