Mosques and community organizations are moving fast 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."
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Another factor: While many leaders and scholars say getting a vaccination wouldn't break fast — MAS Minnesota links to the fatwa giving the green light — local organizers say some are still reluctant.
Dealing with possible side effects from the shots while abstaining from food or drink is also a concern.
What's happening: Zaman lobbied the governor's office to secure 7,000 doses of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine in hopes of fully vaccinating people ASAP.
MAS Minnesota has used the shots to host more than a dozen pop-up clinics at mosques across the metro. A Rochester event is happening today.
The results: In addition to driving up immunity in the community, the effort is making a difference in addressing vaccine hesitancy.
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."
This story first appeared in the Axios Twin Cities newsletter, designed to help readers get smarter, faster on the most consequential news unfolding in their own backyard.
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