Closing the COVID-19 gap: Efforts continue to vaccinate more in Minneapolis Somali community

A clinic inside the Brian Coyle Center in Minneapolis’ Cedar-Riverside neighborhood is taking another step towards closing a COVID-19 gap in a continuing effort to get the Somali community, which numbers about 52,000 people, vaccinated.

"I’m really feeling very great," Miski Abdulle said. "And I’m very happy I have my booster shot today."

Miski, who works in the center, was enthusiastically getting her Pfizer booster shot Friday.

"This is the health of the whole community, so we want to be ready to get together and do activities in person like before. And in order to do that, we have to take the vaccine," Miski said. "It’s very important for everyone, for every age."

But throughout 2021, a lot of hesitancy in the Somali communities with misinformation, rumors, much of it on the back of historic suspicion of vaccines for measles, mumps and rubella, but sometimes, just vaccines in general.

Awol Windissa is community health director for Pillsbury United Communities, which arranged this clinic, and says they’ve worked hard with religious leaders and community groups to educate about the vaccines and spread the word about these clinics.

"There is not site vaccines for this kind of pandemic or health outbreak in Africa or third world counties where people came from, right?" Windissa said. "We have people from the community; we call them health champions. So those are the community people who we send in with the flyers, to distribute flyers and turn to the people."

Miski believes attitudes are changing toward COVID-19 vaccination.

"Yeah, I think we have to keep doing the awareness and education, and we have to invite people to come over and take the vaccine," Miski said. "It is important for themselves, for their families, for their friends, for the whole community."