Islamic Center’s COVID-19 vaccine clinic aimed at reducing racial disparities

About 200 people were vaccinated against COVID-19 Sunday at a pop-up clinic at the Colorado Muslim Society as part of the state’s larger effort to remedy racial inequities in vaccine distribution.

There have been more than 100 such “equity clinics” across the state aimed at all sorts of communities, with events ranging in size from a hundred patients to thousands, Gov. Jared Polis said when he visited the mosque Sunday. He praised the effort and posed for photos with patients and volunteers in a quick stop during a day of bill-signing.

“It’s reaching out to the Latino community, Black community, Muslim community, Ethiopian community, East Asian community — we’re really relying on community leaders,” he said. “In the parking lots of Black churches, in mosques, in Latino community centers. It’s where people feel comfortable being vaccinated, it’s where word of mouth allows the medically underserved to come and be able to participate.”

Colorado’s early vaccination numbers showed that people of color were not being vaccinated at the same rates as white people, a problem seen nationwide. Experts say several factors could be driving the disparity, including deep distrust of the medical establishment among Black Americans because of a history of discriminatory treatment; inadequate access to the vaccine in some neighborhoods; and a digital divide that can make it difficult to get crucial information online.

Sunday’s clinic was open to anyone but aimed at people of color, both those who are Muslims and others who live in the neighborhoods around the center, said Rep. Iman Jodeh, D-Aurora. Sunday’s event gave most patients their second dose of vaccine.

“We realized there was a vaccine desert [here],” Jodeh said Sunday. “…We really wanted to target BIPOC communities, and we wanted to host it in a place, especially for people who felt uneasy about the vaccine, where they felt secure, in their own sanctuary. We were able to vaccinate many Muslims and Arabs and really open it to anyone who needed it.”

The 200 or so patients who were vaccinated through the clinic were racially and religiously diverse, she said, but the organizers had translators on hand and a special private area for women who wear the hijab to receive the vaccine.

Irine Hoque, a Muslim teacher, said she came to clinic to be vaccinated because it was the first appointment she was able to get.

“I would go anywhere,” she said, adding she’d just received her second dose. “I feel much more relaxed now.”

Now that she’s been vaccinated, she’s looking forward to traveling internationally to visit her elderly father and feels more ready to get back into the physical classroom with her third-grade students.

Polis also on Sunday signed bills to give $20 million to 12 state parks for construction improvements and to create a $4 million program aimed at increasing equity in the state’s marijuana industry, which is dominated by white business owners and employees and has been marred by racial disparities. He earmarked about $40 million to help the state fight wildfires and restore forests in a pair of bills.

Editor’s note: The reporter and photographer on this story received extra vaccine doses, after reporting this story, that clinic representatives offered because they needed to be used before going to waste.

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