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Black leaders and county health workers partner for vaccine clinic

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Mohammed Elhag of Cedar Rapids gets his vaccine shot

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KWWL) - The NAACP of Cedar Rapids and Linn County Public Health came together for a COVID-19 vaccine clinic Tuesday.

"We wanted to help make the community safer," Dedric Doolin said, local chapter president.

People of all races and backgrounds got their shots Tuesday but there was a concerted effort to reach people of color. Organizers say minorities have struggled to find vaccine appointments and reliable information.

"We have a lot of people that have struggled getting it so we're excited to offer them an opportunity," Doolin said.

The clinic was held at the ROC Center; a community center, church and nonprofit east of NewBo City Market. Doolin says having it a place people knew well increased turnout and made people feel more at ease.

One person who was a bit nervous to get his shot was Mohammed Elhag, a Sudanese immigrant who's lived in Cedar Rapids for almost two years. Elhag says all the talk about vaccine side effects had him worried.

“The social media, the news, everybody was just focusing on the side effects or the reaction of the vaccine," Elhag said.

But his English instructor at Kirkwood Community College found out about the clinic and convinced Elhag to go. Now, he says he'll feel more comfortable gathering with friends and celebrating holidays.

"I'm going to feel comfort because I got my shot," Elhag said.

About 50 people got their one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine Tuesday and the organizers plan to host another clinic on Saturday.

Doolin says while this weekend's clinic is also already full, he wants to continue to help people find appointments.

“Maybe it won’t be today, maybe it won’t be Saturday. But if they want the shot, we’re going to try and help them get connected," Doolin said.

KWWL ran a special report last week about Black Americans' hesitancy to get the vaccine and the community leaders trying to help. You can view that story here.

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Travis Breese

Reporter, Iowa City

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