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South Seattle pharmacy tackles cultural barriers to get communities of color vaccinated

Staff at Othello Station Pharmacy in south Seattle are providing culturally appropriate care to communities of color, including speaking eight different languages.

SEATTLE — A pharmacy in south Seattle's Othello neighborhood is on a mission to get people of color vaccinated.

Othello Station Pharmacy is offering so much more than just grab-and-go service, it has become a trusted space for people of color to feel seen.

"I felt comfortable coming here," said Roble Musse.

Musse can go to any pharmacy, but he drives from Tukwila to Othello Station, which he said understands his specific needs.

"It provides culturally appropriate services, also I feel they can address my needs, my questions, concerns about the virus and the vaccine," said Musse.

Musse is one of many customers traveling from all parts of south King County to get the COVID-19 vaccine from pharmacists and staff they can relate to.

"We decided we were going to make it a very simple process," said Dr. Ahmed Ali, the owner of Othello Station Pharmacy.

Ali is on a mission to vaccinate the community he’s from. As a Somali refugee, he said he understands the obstacles and barriers people of color face in health care.

"We have pop-up clinics every weekend, specific locations, whether it’s churches, mosques, or community centers or even having people just walk in," said Ali.

Pharmacy staff speak eight languages combined, many of them East African. Their skills help them reach out to communities disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

"We know Skyway needs help, doesn’t have a single pharmacy, it doesn’t have a clinic and it’s predominately people of color that live in Skyway," said Ali.

That’s why Ali said focusing on getting the vaccine to those who need it most is critical – and cultural understanding and access will continue to play a huge role.