Around the world, many scientists, researchers, doctors and other specialists have been focused on one thing: developing a vaccine for COVID-19. And thanks to revolutionary medical and scientific progress, a vaccine has now been created.

Is the vaccine required? No, but it is certainly necessary. This is an essential detail, but many Spanish-speaking people in Virginia didn’t get this message clearly because of a machine translation error that potentially caused confusion and spread misinformation.

On the frequently asked questions page of the Virginia Department of Health agency’s website, one question asked “Will the COVID-19 vaccine be required for all Virginians?” The response, translated by staff with Google Translate from U.S. English to Spanish, stated in part, “The vaccine isn’t necessary.” It was later changed to “La vacuna no será obligatoria” (the vaccine will not be mandatory).

In a critical global pandemic that has infected Latino Americans at a rate three times higher than white Americans, there’s no room for error or confusion. This is one example of why it’s so important to invest in translation services for the medical field and public health systems.


Two Major Challenges for Medical Translation

Many things can create difficulties in this field. It’s essential to deal with these issues appropriately so that patients are protected and get the treatment they deserve. We’ll focus on two of them.

  • Local dialect: Depending on the country or even the specific part of the country, different words and phrases may mean different things. Using machine translation software, like Google Translate, can easily cause confusion or errors because these local elements and the context of the message have to be considered carefully, something only a human translator can do.
  • Medical terminology: Another big challenge is the fact that medical terminology is almost its own separate language. It’s important that a translator be an expert in the particular field of medicine in which they’re working. This way they can read the document and use their knowledge in this field to deliver an accurate translation.

Because of these two things, it’s important that those responsible for purchasing translation in the medical field don’t rely on machine translation or a translator who isn’t an expert on the subject at hand.

The Importance of Accuracy

It should be fairly obvious just why it’s so important to be accurate with medical translations. Whether it’s a prescription medication information, instructions for care while in a hospital, public health information or medical records transferred from another country, accuracy matters in a big way. A single mistake could lead to numerous issues including injury and legal action. Let’s look more closely at these.

  • Injury: Patients deserve proper care. That means making sure that they are given the correct treatments. A single mistranslation in care or medication guidelines could lead to complications and even death.
  • Legal action: Along with the risk of injury comes the risk of legal action. Mistranslation can be grounds for a serious lawsuit, and it’s important to protect yourself against this. Accurate translation is the foundation for doing just that.


These are just a couple of the main reasons that accuracy in medical translation is so important. To get the best translation services possible, you need the professionals, so contact ITC Global Translations today.


Source: Richmond Times-Dispatch

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