Minnesota places of worship will play an important role in vaccination of at-risk populations

As COVID-19 vaccinations move forward across Minnesota, places of worship could play a role in connecting physicians with some of the state’s most vulnerable.

Right now, a medical resident at Hennepin Healthcare is reaching out to local mosques to help spread the word about the vaccine.

"We are focused on trying to ensure that there’s equitable access to the vaccine," said Dr. Hoda Hassan.

As COVID-19 vaccinations continue to roll out, Dr. Hoda Hassan, a psychiatry resident at Hennepin Healthcare, is working to reach the Somali population.

"Essentially, what we have been doing is partnering with local sheiks and Imams, providing a platform that we can educate the community," said Dr. Hassan.

The pandemic is hitting communities of color especially hard. Dr. Hassan says when it comes to the vaccine, among some there's a deep distrust, and controlling the spread of misinformation is yet another battle.

"With the COVID-19 vaccine, there’s concerns regarding how rapidly it was developed and some conspiracy," said Dr. Hassan. "Unfortunately some conspiracy videos sharing some non-factual information about the COVID-19 vaccines."

From synagogues to churches, places of worship becoming a center point for vaccination outreach. At one local synagogue, participants of a recent flu clinic, who are 65 or older, are eligible to be vaccinated against COVID-19 through Hennepin Healthcare.

Dr. Hassan is working with mosques across the metro and St. Cloud.

"Folks are being called to make appointments to come to one of the Hennepin Health Care Clinic locations to get their vaccine," said Dr. Hassan.

With the help of staff who speak the Somali language, Dr. Hassan says they are making headway, but admits time may be running out. 

"We have time still, even though that time is running out, we still have some to continue to put efforts into outreach," Dr. Hassan explained. "Making sure that the most vulnerable get the access that they deserve."