Pa. DOH, St. Luke’s, volunteer group discuss vaccine hesitancy among minority communities

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FILE – In this Sunday, March 21, 2021 file photo, a vial of of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine at the Guru Nanak Gurdwara Sikh temple, on the day the first Vaisakhi Vaccine Clinic is launched, in Luton, England. A top official at the European Medicines Agency says there’s a causal link between the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine and rare cases of blood clots, but he says the benefits of getting the vaccine still outweigh the risks, it was reported on Tuesday, April 6, 2021. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali, File)

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — On Wednesday afternoon, The Pennsylvania Department of Health Acting Secretary Alison Beam discussed vaccine hesitancy among minority groups across the commonwealth, including in the Muslim community.

“As more vaccine is becoming available across the state, and more Pennsylvanians are becoming eligible, we know there are individuals who are hesitant to get it, or still have questions about the safety and efficacy of the vaccine — and that is okay,” Acting Secretary Beam said.

Beam elaborated on the information available to Pennsylvanians regarding the COVID-19 vaccine to ensure all eligible individuals are able to make a decision on their own as to whether or not to be vaccinated.

“The vaccine is safe, effective and has gone through extensive clinical trials. Stopping a pandemic requires using all the tools available, and vaccines work with your immune system so your body will be ready to fight the virus if you are exposed,” Beam Said.

Upon receiving emergency-use authorization by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the COVID-19 vaccines had made it through extensive clinical trials to determine safety and effectiveness. Beam also explained that going forward, the vaccinations will continue to “undergo intensive safety monitoring to continue to ensure the vaccines are safe.”

Beam was joined by leaders from St. Luke’s University Health Network and Rabiul Chowdhury from the Muslim Aid Initiative.

In addition to the Pa. Department of Health COVID-19 task force, St. Luke’s Sacred Heart Campus President Frank Ford highlighted the health network’s success in their mass vaccination process. Thus far St. Luke’s has vaccinated 200,000 eligible Pennsylvanians at its various locations in central-eastern Pennsylvania.

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“Currently, the Network is vaccinating up to 4,000 people a day at 11 hospital-based sites across the greater Lehigh Valley. This approach makes getting the vaccine safe for anyone who experiences an adverse reaction since each hospital is equipped with a fully functional emergency department,” Ford said.

As a result of St. Luke’s vaccination effort, Lehigh and Northampton Counties take the lead as two of the most-vaccinated counties in Pa.

Additionally, St. Luke’s partnered with Lehigh Valley Muslim Community Activists, the Ortiz Ark Foundation, the Unidos Foundation, and community organizations like the Hispanic Center and the NAACP to reach other racial and ethnic minority populations throughout the commonwealth.

“The Muslim Aid Initiative has also done extensive work to help not only with vaccine hesitancy in the Muslim community but to also distribute vaccine through a local vaccine clinic and help with other COVID-19 efforts throughout the pandemic,” the Pa. DOH said in a release.

The local initiative works to distribute PPE to medical personnel and local residents, as well as providing assistance to those who may be struggling during the pandemic — like supplying and delivering groceries.

Through education and service, the Muslim Aid Initiative also hosts events to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on the eastern Pa. community.

“We consistently serve all members of the local community, regardless of race, religion, or socioeconomic status,” Rabiul Chowdhury, founder of the Muslim Aid Initiative said. “The purpose of the Muslim Aid Initiative is to disseminate accurate health information and resources to communities in the Greater Philadelphia Region.”

A Livestream was held on Wednesday at 1 p.m. from St. Luke’s University Health Network, Sacred Heart Campus in Allentown.

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