Apr 8, 2021 - News

Minnesota Muslims rush to get pre-Ramadan COVID-19 vaccinations

Illustration of a circular bandage with a clock face on it.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Mosques and community organizations are rushing to connect Minnesota Muslims with COVID-19 vaccine appointments before Ramadan begins next week.

Context: The monthlong observance, which starts April 12, involves extra prayer, spiritual reflection, acts of charity and fasting from dawn to dusk.

The issue: People are "chomping at the bit to get back into mosques" and pray in person after the pandemic disrupted services last year, Imam Asad Zaman, executive director of the Muslim American Society of Minnesota, told Torey.

  • "It's a race against time to get our people vaccinated before there are large congregations in the communities."

Another factor: Leaders and scholars say getting a vaccination wouldn't break the fast, which is one of the pillars of the faith, and MAS Minnesota links to the fatwa giving the green light for the shots in general. But the prospect of dealing with possible side effects from the shots while abstaining from food or drink is also a concern for some.

What's happening: Zaman lobbied the governor's office to secure 7,000 doses of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine in hopes of getting as many people as possible immune at the start of the holy month.

The results: In addition to driving up immunity in the community, the effort is making a difference in addressing vaccine hesitancy within the state's sizable Muslim population.

  • Ahead of the first clinic, Zaman had to convince people to sign up. Now, thanks to "social buzz," appointments are filling up fast.

What's next: Zaman thinks the strategy, along with public vaccination events featuring local religious leaders, could help address disparities in the shot rollout so far.

  • "Doing it in the mosque creates emotional comfort," he said. "People who are on the edge say … well it’s in the mosque, so I’ll check it out."
  • Zaman said he's asking for even more shots given the high demand.

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