FARGO — The mosque here where many local Muslims pray each day also became a place to gain protection against the coronavirus on Friday, June 4.

Dozens of free COVID-19 vaccinations were given at the Islamic Society of Fargo-Moorhead’s mosque at 601 28th St. S., including doses of the Pfizer vaccine for youths 12 and older.

The event was put on by North Dakota State University’s Center for Immunization Research and Education, or CIRE, in conjunction with the state Department of Health.

It’s believed to be the first such mass COVID-19 vaccination event at a local house of worship. Dr. Paul Carson, an NDSU professor and director of CIRE, said he would love for others to do the same.

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“This, to me, is like an example of what a faith community can do,” Carson said.

More than 60 doses were available from 1:30 to 4 p.m. at the mosque, which serves the Muslim community of about 6,000 in the Fargo area. Scheduling the event around two busy prayer times made it more convenient for everyone, Carson said.

Moctar Diop, 22, of Fargo, was one of those who waited in line to get the shot.

He said he was reluctant at first but changed his mind after researching the vaccine and after getting COVID-19 himself in April, when he suffered from bad fevers and loss of taste and smell.

“I promised myself I would take it right after I get better… so yeah, here I am,” Diop said.

Carson and one of his graduate students, Nada Soliman, planned the event as a way to increase vaccination rates in the new American community.

Soliman is a physician in Egypt who came to Fargo this summer to pursue her master’s degree in public health at NDSU. Since she is Muslim and speaks Arabic, she was a natural fit to help reduce some of the vaccination concerns in that population.

Carson said language barriers might be partially to blame.

“I don’t know that we’ve done the best job of engaging their community leaders to help make this understandable, the importance of it,” Carson said.

Having Muslim leaders talk with their community has helped, he added.

Carson said even though COVID-19 cases overall have decreased across the country and in North Dakota, cases are still spreading easily among the unvaccinated population.

The NDSU group and state health officials will be back to administer second doses of the vaccine at the mosque on June 25.

“This has exceeded our hopes and expectations,” he said.