Five hundred people worship at the Darou Salam Mosque in the Melrose section of The Bronx.
About 40 of them died from COVID-19. That’s 8% — many times the virus death rate for the city’s population as a whole.
What You Need To Know
- The city put more than 70% of vaccine sites in neighborhoods disproportionately impacted by the virus, the majority in black and brown communities
- About 24% of Black New Yorkers and 28% of Hipanic New Yorkers have gotten their first vaccine shot, compared to 42% of white New Yorkers
- The problem is rooted in a history of insufficient health care investment in communities of color says NYC Health Department
The prayers are for those gone and for the living. The Imam, though, is doing more than pray to fight the pandemic.
"Take the vaccine, better than wait until you get sick, to save yourself and the family," said Imam Cheikh Ndao.
The first to get vaccinated at Darou Salam, he is encouraging others to do the same and introducing them to Cheikhou Ann.
“So, now anybody in New York City who is 16 and older is eligible to take the vaccine,” said Cheikhou Ann.
He’s one of the community health workers for The Institute for Family Health, a non-profit community health center. He is assigned to sign people up to get a COVID vaccine.
Fluent in four languages, on this trip to the mosque the Imam gave him several names and numbers of people to schedule.
So far Cheikhou Ann is responsible for about 500 people in the Bronx getting the vaccine. He has an inside track making appointments working for one of 38 community-based organizations selected by the city to distribute information about the vaccine.
"We’ve put equity front and center in our vaccine role out," said Torian Easterling, the first deputy commissioner and chief equity officer at the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
The city put more than 70% of vaccine sites in neighborhoods disproportionally impacted by the virus, the majority of them in black and brown communities.
Despite that, 24% of Black New Yorkers and 28% of Latino New Yorkers have received their first dose of a vaccine, where 42% of white New Yorkers have gotten their first shot.
“We recognize the challenge," said Easterling, "We recognize that it is an uphill battle and we recognize that it is a lot of work to do and certainly the work is going to extend beyond the work that we do during this pandemic.”
At the root of the problem the city Health Department says is a history insufficient health care investment in communities of color, and now building confidence in the vaccine.
For that the city turns to people like Cheikhou Ann and he says he’s succeeding.
“Everybody decide now to get vaccinated, more than the beginning when people were nervous," he said. "Everybody calling me for word of mouth just to get vaccinated.”
The percentage of those vaccinated in the Darou Salam Mosque is now more in line with the white population in Manhattan, where roughly 50% are vaccinated.