This Thursday, the Rochester mosque will be offering the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine to anyone in the community who hasn't been vaccinated yet.
Rashed Ferdous, chairman of the Masjed AbuBakr Al-Seddiq's board of directors, said the mosque was able to obtain 500 doses of the one-shot vaccine through its alliance with Twin Cities mosques, which are also serving as vaccination sites.
The vaccine will be administered by Olmstead LPH at the daylong event, and anyone is eligible who is at least 18 years old and registers. It will run from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Ferdous said the mosque is working through the Rochester Downtown Alliance, of which the mosque is a member, and Rochester Area Interfaith Leadership to spread the word about the event. The effort to inoculate people against the virus is consistent with Islam's Golden Rule: To love your neighbor as much as yourself.
"This is like win-win-win-win-win," he said. "I forwarded this to the RDA, because I want our neighbors to be vaccinated."
Ferdous said the mosque was given a choice of vaccines — Moderna, Pfizer and J&J — and opted for Johnson & Johnson. The one-shot vaccine was seen as more convenient in a couple ways. It meant having to organize only one event instead of two. The Muslim calendar also played a factor in choosing the vaccine, he said.
Islam's holiest month, Ramadan, starts on April 12, less than a week away. And by getting the J&J shot and having it over and done with, members will be able to gather with less concern and fear about spreading or catching the virus. Even if they suffer side effects from the vaccine, they should subside before the month begins.
The Rochester downtown mosque was closed during last year's Ramadan due to the pandemic. While it was closed, Rochester Muslims were unable to gather there for Friday noon prayers, which is similar to Christians' Sunday services. The mosque reopened about six months ago, "in a limited capacity," to people who wish to pray together, but mask wearing and social distancing are required.
"People are going to be a little bit more comfortable, because Ramadan is a time when people want to come to the mosque and pray in a congregation," Ferdous said about the effect of the vaccine on members.
Ferdous calls fasting one of the holiday's "biggest religious benefits." But people can't or are not required to fast if they are sick with COVID. That's why the vaccine is so important. Though temperature checks and other restrictions will be in place at the mosque, vaccinated members will be able to celebrate and participate in Ramadan more in the manner of two years ago than last year.
"We don't want to miss out on Ramadan," Ferdous said. "It comes once a year. It's a super-sacred month for Muslims."