In a push to vaccinate Muslim communities in the Richmond area, the first clinic opens

In a push to vaccinate Muslim communities in the Richmond area, the first clinic opens

Apr 29, 2021

When she first started calling Muslims in Henrico County, Faiza Sadiq could feel the excitement on the other line.

“Like even when I would hang up, they would pass my number to a friend and they would call me for an appointment,” Sadiq said. “I think it was the familiarity factor. … Word of mouth is working.”

Medical Reserve Corps volunteers like Sadiq and community health workers spent their mornings and nights leading up to Thursday filling slots for the first vaccine clinic at the Islamic Center of Henrico & Masjid Al-Falah. Then they transfered the registration information to the Virginia Department of Health.

Two more clinics are scheduled for May, including one next week.

Flyers were printed in Arabic and passed out during Friday prayer. Facebook posts were shared to let people know doses would be brought directly to their mosque — a trusted source of information, a safe space where its worshippers already felt like they belonged.

Local leaders with the Islamic Circle of North America Relief were on standby to assure the more than 200 people signed up to be vaccinated by end of day Thursday that receiving a vaccine during daylight hours would not break the dawn-to-dusk Ramadan fast that began April 12.

“It doesn’t negate your passion because you’re getting the injection,” said Amir Saeed, chief information officer for ICNA Relief, an organization focused on outreach for people who are food insecure and need access to health clinics. “You’re not taking it orally. … It’s for your safety. Your health.”

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Once community members heard the mosque was leading the efforts alongside the VDH, Saeed said what he heard most often was, “We’d prefer coming here than going someplace else.”

On-site registration was also available, with workers on hand who spoke Arabic, French, Spanish and more. The event is open to all Richmond and Henrico County residents, but was launched to mobilize the necessary efforts to reach a population facing language barriers and reservations, primarily fueled by misinformation, about getting a dose. Some still cling to misperceptions, Sadiq said.

With a sacred, critical teaching of Islam being to do what one can to save lives, Sadiq has dedicated the past four months to debunking those myths and vaccinating as many people as she could.

She has witnessed firsthand the toll COVID-19 can take. Her father-in-law died from the virus in Pakistan. She said goodbye over a videoconference call. Then her mother had surgery and Sadiq couldn’t go inside the hospital due to no-visitor policies. Her husband, who also volunteers with the health department, is a physician who works with COVID-19 patients and was infected in November.

And Sadiq is a teacher with Henrico Public Schools, which did not meet in person for the greater part of the past year.

Seeing people smiling as they enter and as they walk out — with a bag filled with a packet of Ocean Spray dried cranberries, Miss Vickie’s sea salt potato chips, pink cotton candy gourmet popcorn and bottles of Propel water for the electrolytes — made Sadiq think there’s a chance “we can get one step closer to ending this.”

Hamna Saleem, an outreach coordinator with ICNA Relief who started 29 days ago, said clinics like the one Thursday are a relief to communities as a whole.

“Like, ‘OK, I can go here and there will be someone who can accommodate me,’” Saleem said, noting how a mosque opening its doors to take preventive measures is significant. “I think we’re slowly entering an era where the stigma against Muslims is decreasing, which is why I’m glad to see it, but it still is very reassuring for people to know that their local mosque in the neighborhood cares about that, and they want them to have access to the vaccine.”

For Mohammad Zahidi, 33, the dose meant finally not being afraid of getting his family sick. Zahidi is an Amazon delivery driver who became an essential worker without warning a year ago.

He got COVID-19 shortly thereafter.

As he sat on the beige metal chairs, waiting for the 15 minutes of observation post-vaccination to pass, Zahidi said he felt a sense of freedom creep in. Without his roommate telling him of the Islamic Center’s clinic, he would still be without his first vaccination.

Now, he can let himself hope a sense of normal is near.

PHOTOS: Vaccines given at the Islamic Center of Henrico / Masjid Al-Falah

Sidra Butt, with the Association of Physicians of Pakistani Descent of North America, gave a vaccine at the Islamic Center on Thursday.
Julie Moon, a nurse with the Virginia Department of Health, talked with a woman about her COVID-19 vaccination card after she administered her shot at the Islamic Center of Henrico & Masjid Al-Falah on Thursday.
Frank Munyan, with the Medical Reserve Corp, helps people schedule their second COVID-19 vaccine after receiving their first dose at the Islamic Center of Henrico / Masjid Al-Falah Thursday, April 29, 2021.
Lisa Specter-Dunaway, a volunteer with the Medical Reserve Corp, talks with a couple about their COVID-19 vaccine at the Islamic Center of Henrico / Masjid Al-Falah Thursday, April 29, 2021.

Article Courtesy By: Richmond Times Dispatch

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