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Puget Sound-area African community groups dispel COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy

Social media, targeted clinics and outreach in different languages can help answer questions and concerns for local African communities.

EDMONDS, Wash. — Combating vaccine hesitancy could mean a more targeted approach, working in specific communities in multiple ways.

The African Leaders Health Board and other groups helped Saturday with a pop-up vaccine clinic at St. Michael Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church.

Biz Beyene came for his second Moderna shot and said he planned to share his experience with many at his church.

“It has an impact, when you talk people with their own language they will feel more comfortable. They will ask whatever they want to ask. They understand what the answer,” Beyene said.

The vaccines were open to anyone who came to the event but they specifically targeted underserved communities including African immigrants. The clinic offered both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines available for those who came to the event.

Vaccine hesitancy has been an ongoing issue for a variety of reasons.

Kwadwo Oware has been heavily involved in a social media effort using platforms like WhatsApp and Instagram to post photos of community leaders getting the vaccine.

“The conspiracy theories around the vaccine are being debunked because they see people like them. They see community leaders taking the vaccine and they are good to follow,” Oware explained.

It helps to have vaccine clinics like Saturday's event, so those still struggling with fears can talk with medical providers, sometimes in their own language.

“The hesitation comes from they don't know the side effects but the more they do this, teach them it's going to be safe for the community,” Nurse Practitioner Abubakar Abdul-Rahman said. 

He is originally from Africa and brought the vaccine supply to the event.

“I’m providing the vaccine so they feel more comfortable,” he said.

Many involved in the clinic say this is a model to combat vaccine hesitancy that could be rolled out into more communities. The multi-faceted approach takes time but does seem to be showing progress.

“This is a very effective way to curb out the hesitancy. This is the best approach for government to reach out,” Fanaye Amsalu said.

The group is planning more clinics at the church in Edmonds and another clinic in Federal Way.