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Teamwork Fuels COVID-19 Vaccination Clinic Efforts

As the next round of COVID-19 vaccinations opens up for 12-15-year-olds, one local congregation will be ready. A successful vaccination drive at the Islamic Society of Akron and Kent (ISAK) will be followed by another, guided by science and assisted by members of the Northeast Ohio Medical University community.

Khaled Adjerid, Ph.D., is a postdoctoral research fellow at NEOMED who sits on the COVID-19 safety task force of the Islamic Society of Akron and Kent (ISAK). Composed of local scientists and physicians, the task force advises the congregation and the adjoining school on safe opening practices. Its guidance is based on the most recent National Institutes of Health publications and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, explains Dr. Adjerid. 

Considering the barriers to vaccination

“Our Islamic Society community includes people from many different ethnic backgrounds and national origins, some of whom came to this area recently as refugees from Syria and Burma. We noticed a lot of disinformation and general lack of knowledge about COVID-19 in the community, resulting in vaccine hesitancy. 

“We figured that folks would be more comfortable receiving vaccinations if the information were in their language and administered by their neighbors, who speak the same language and are part of the same culture,” says Dr. Adjerid.

The task force partnered with Summit County Public Health to host a vaccination drive on the congregation’s site in Cuyahoga Falls. Dr. Adjerid contacted a NEOMED colleague, Fady Abdlrasul, Pharm.D. (’14), to ask his help in rounding up volunteers, knowing that earlier this year, Dr. Abdlrasul – an assistant professor of pharmacy practice – had been instrumental in training College of Pharmacy students in vaccination practices. Many College of Pharmacy students have assisted at other sites, whether behind the scenes or administering vaccines. 

So, it was arranged for two Pharm.D. students with vaccinator certificates – fourth-year student Mobolaji Giwa and second-year student Hala Daghlas – to join the volunteer team of pharmacists, pharmacy techs and physicians. Volunteers reached out to members of the congregation and went door to door to help them fill out the required registration forms. Giwa and Daghlas served by administering vaccines; directing people; and conveying important information about the vaccine, COVID-19, and the consent forms. 

The result? At that first vaccination drive, nearly 500 vaccines were administered, reports Dr. Adjerid. 

Photo: Among those receiving a vaccine at a recent COVID-19 clinic was Mohammad Yunus Ansari, Ph.D., a research assistant professor in the Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology.  

Next vaccination drive

And now that Emergency Use Authorization of the Pfizer vaccine has been approved for children ages 12 to 15, the Islamic Society plans to hold another clinic, this one focused on providing vaccine access to younger members of the ISAK community and the children attending an adjoining charter school. Members of the general public will also be welcome, of course, says Dr. Adjerid. 

It’s crucial for health care providers to meet the diverse cultural needs of Northeast Ohio’s many different communities during this pandemic, says Dr. Abdlrasul. Helping at a clinic like this one?  “It’s exactly what we’re training our students to do.” 

Photo: Pharmacy student Hala Daghlas administers a vaccine.