The vaccine site was held Saturday at the parking lot of St. Mark Missionary Baptist Church on Lyons Avenue from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. but was spearheaded by the 5th Ward Islamic Center for Human Development.
In addition to giving out free barbecue dinners hosted by the organizers, the Army National Guard assisted in providing logistics as well as setting up the physical site and administering for 300 doses of the Pfizer vaccine.
Preparing to give out food (Photo: FOX 26 Houston)
Through partnerships with other local organizations such as COVID-19 Wall of Memories, Changing Hearts and Mind Program (C.H.A.M.P), Imam Jihad Muhammad of 5th Ward said in a press statement the event looks to help provide vaccine assistance to typically underserved areas.
"For our city and our country to become free of COVID-19, vaccination is essential," Imam Muhammad said. "People of color have been disproportionately impacted by COVID and we must reverse that trend."
Imam Jihad poses with Army National Guard Volunteers (Photo: FOX 26 Houston)
During an interview with FOX 26 Houston Saturday morning, Imam Muhammad elaborated on his reason for holding the vaccination site in Fifth Ward saying it was vital based on his role as a community and religious leader.
"Many Islamic centers have like a Quranic name or some Islamic Arabic connotation, but we chose to name this, this Islamic Center, after the neighborhood itself, to give the people of the community, a sense of belonging, and a sense of ownership, like this is OUR center," he said. "So it was important for us to have the vaccination event here, you know, to directly serve these people in it and let them know that we're here for them."
Additionally, Imam Muhammad said this event was part of an ongoing program within the Muslim community called "Putting the Neighbor back in the Hood."
"A hood is a covering of protective covering - if you will," he said. "But if you take the neighbor out of it, then it becomes something detrimental to the community."
The event was spearheaded by 5th Ward Islamic Center (Photo: FOX 26 Houston)
"You know, we live in communities, Ahmed, where people have bars on their windows, bars, on their doors… bars all over the place," Imam Muhammad continued. "And we have become conditioned to locking people out, isolating ourselves from our neighborhood…by putting the neighbor back in, we try to forge relationships that will affect positive change in this community."
And the COVID-19 pandemic, Imam Muhammad argued, perpetuated that division on a grander scale but could be remedied through residents making informed decisions and getting vaccinated.
"We're in a situation where we cannot remain so deeply divided," he said. "Where we have to put aside whatever differences we have - iy doesn't matter who you voted for, or anything like this, we have to put aside our differences. We have to become educated, and we have to become active."
Army National Guard prepares for vaccination drive (Photo: FOX 26 Houston)
C.H.A.M.P. founder, Samuel Alix, echoed Imam Muhammad’s statements, adding it seemed vital for them to step up and help bridge the gap to make receiving the vaccine more accessible for Houston residents.
"Our organizations felt called to action to erase the lack of vaccine equity among different populations," he said in a press statement.
Alix added the organizations will be looking to host a second vaccine drive to administer second doses but hopes it won't be the only time they'll be in the Fifth Ward or other areas in Houston that need them.
"We'll be coming back in 28 days for the second shot," he said. "We're hoping that the feedback would be that more shots are needed so we can reschedule another first shot as well."
Most importantly, organizers hope the vaccine drive will help prevent the numbers of coronavirus-related deaths from increasing as well, as Mohammad Nasrullah, co-founder and president of COVID-19 Wall of Memories explained.
"Our website, the COVID-19 Wall of Memories, displays the faces of those who have passed away from this terrible disease," Nasrullah said. "Because we know so well the vast toll it has taken, we hope this will be just the first of this type of event."
Even volunteer members of the Army National Guard said the mission was personal.
"My mother had [COVID-19], she almost passed away from it, but she survived," Staff Sgt. Laertes Byrd said. "I just feel like it's a way of being safe, I had COVID before and I can say, I had concerns about the shot, but I feel like it's a choice…It's your choice, you make a decision, get educated, and then you make your choice from there and see what's good for you."
Those who will be receiving a shot will be scheduled to get their second dose of the vaccine on August 21st.