COVID-19 needs assessment survey identifies language barriers, health misinformation among Asian American adults

August 31, 2022

Media contacts
Elaine Sanchez Wilson, Director of Communications and Development
Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC)
(202) 601-2972

COVID-19 Response Team
Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum (APIAHF)     


WASHINGTON, DC – In April, the Southeast Asian Resource Action Center (SEARAC) in collaboration with NYU Center for the Study of Asian American Health (NYU CSAAH), the Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum (APIAHF), and their community-based partners developed and released the COVID-19 Rapid Needs Assessment survey as part of a CDC-funded COVID-19 initiative, called Forging AA and NH/PI Community Partnerships for Rapid Response to COVID-19 (Forging Partnerships)

Community organizations that co-led the COVID-19 Rapid Needs Assessment were:

The purpose of this rapid needs assessment survey was to understand COVID-19-related needs and knowledge within Southeast Asian communities. The survey was primarily administered online and was translated into four Southeast Asian languages (Hmong, Khmer, Mien, and Vietnamese) to increase survey participation, guided by project partners’ work and expertise to increase language access to their communities. 

The survey was open from April to May and collected 110 responses from individuals within Hmong, Filipino, Iu Mien, Khmer, Khmu, Korean, Lao, Malaysian, Vietnamese, and other Asian American communities. The survey included questions on language access, COVID-19 vaccination and testing, caregiver confidence in COVID-19 vaccinations for children, and information sources and misinformation related to COVID-19.  

Our analysis identified the following key findings from the survey: 

  • About 46% of participants reported language barriers were a challenge for themselves or a family member during the pandemic.
  • Most Asian American adults (78.5%) who responded to the survey believed that the COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective for themselves. However, 18% answered that they ‘did not know.’ This reported uncertainty increased when asked about the safety and effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine for children, with 33.4% of Asian American adults answering ‘did not know.’
  • When asked how familiar they were with COVID-19 variants, 32.5% of Asian American adults reported they ‘have heard of it, but don’t know much about it’ and 7.4% reported they ‘haven’t heard of it.’ 
  • When asked how familiar they were with long COVID, 41.7% of Asian American adults reported they ‘have heard of it, but don’t know much about it’ and 11.7% reported they ‘haven’t heard of it.’ 
  • COVID-19 vaccination (having received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine) was high among Asian American children (96.8%) aged 12-17 years old. The proportion of respondents who reported having a child aged 5-11 years who had received a COVID-19 vaccination decreased in Asian American children (92.6%).
  • When asked about common misconceptions about COVID-19 and vaccines, participants reported that significant misinformation is widespread across Asian American communities.

“The findings from the COVID-19 Rapid Needs Assessment survey validate what we already know about Southeast Asian Americans and COVID-19: key information is lost to language barriers and lack of access,” stated Quyên Đinh, Executive Director of SEARAC. “While we are heartened to see that many Asian American adults and children who responded to the survey have been vaccinated and know the vaccine to be safe and effective, a lack of understanding of COVID variants and the risks of long COVID puts our communities’ health at risk. SEARAC is grateful to our community partners who conducted the survey and who continue to break through barriers to support Southeast Asian Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic. We look forward to our continued work with NYU CSAAH and APIAHF to ensure that no one in our communities is left behind.”

The survey findings and data have been used by community-based partner organizations to create videos in five languages addressing the lack of language access related to pandemic care. This survey data will also continue to inform the community partners’ leading roles in pandemic response as they provide services such as test distribution, vaccine delivery, and community health education. All of the participating Forging Partnerships organizations, including SEARAC, will continue to push for policies and resources that will help our communities be healthy and thrive.