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‘Breaking bread with vaccine’: Wayland mosque mounts local interfaith vaccination clinic

Jamal Khatib filled out paperwork at the Islamic Center in Wayland vaccination clinic to get his first Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination shot.
Jamal Khatib filled out paperwork at the Islamic Center in Wayland vaccination clinic to get his first Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination shot.Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

A Wayland mosque opened its doors Saturday to serve as a local COVID-19 vaccination clinic in an interfaith effort to encourage more people to get protection from the deadly virus.

Dr. M. Faisal Khan, a cardiologist with St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center — who is also the imam of the Islamic Center of Boston in Wayland and has a master’s degree in epidemiology from the Harvard School of Public Health— described the outreach as a welcome.

“When we got this vaccine, we thought to ourselves, ‘We really want to share this with our neighbors,’ ” Khan said. “We’re breaking bread with vaccine, as it were.”

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The program, which was held in conjunction with Wayland’s Jewish Temple Shir Tikva, Catholic Good Shepherd Parish, and Unitarian Universalist First Parish, was meant to help make it easier for people to receive vaccine, Khan said.

The clinic administered first doses of Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine to 49 people, according to Aijaz Baloch, a past president of the Islamic Center of Boston in Wayland. Those people will be able to return for second doses on May 22.

On Saturday, the state Department of Public Health reported the number of administered doses in Massachusetts rose by 87,550 to 6,185,496. The number of people fully vaccinated — with two shots of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines or one shot of the Johnson & Johnson — rose to 2,580,209.

The state health department also reported 1,115 new confirmed coronavirus cases Saturday, bringing the state’s total to nearly 645,000, and seven new confirmed coronavirus deaths, bringing its total to 17,266.

It said more than 24,600 people were estimated to have active cases of the potentially deadly virus, and 541 confirmed coronavirus patients were in the hospital.

The Rev. Stephanie May of First Parish Church said about a dozen members of her community signed up for doses at the Wayland mosque.

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She and Khan have worked together on interfaith efforts in the past, she said, and when he raised the idea of opening a clinic at the mosque, she backed it immediately.

“Anything we can do to support community health and a return to normal is something I would jump at supporting,” May said.

Habiba Dirrane received her first Pfizer Covid-19 vaccination shot from Dr. Saima Khan, right , at the The Islamic Center in Wayland  vaccination clinic.
Habiba Dirrane received her first Pfizer Covid-19 vaccination shot from Dr. Saima Khan, right , at the The Islamic Center in Wayland vaccination clinic.Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

Khan said the mosque has emphasized the importance of members getting vaccinated in weekly sermons and worked to dispel misinformation that has followed the vaccine rollout across the country. He said religious organizations like his are able to build trust in the vaccine and provide easy access to doses.

“By the religious organizations embracing it, it sends a message to the community: ‘We believe that this is right, and something that is good for you,’ ” Khan said. “These smaller outreach programs are certainly the way to go... they are in the community, people know where they are, and feel comfortable with that.”

Samuel Scarpino, a Northeastern University epidemiologist, said the kind of community outreach offered by the mosque is essential.

“We are going to need a lot more of that as we get into the summer if we are going to reach the 75 percent, 85 percent threshold” for herd immunity, he said.

Community engagement, he added, is “part of building trust, and it’s a part of ensuring that individuals have access to the vaccine.”

Amer Syed, 50, of Milford, said those sermons at the Wayland mosque reassured him that the vaccine was safe and he should get a shot when he was able to.

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“Any kind of doubts that I had were addressed through the sessions,” said Syed, who received a Pfizer dose Saturday. “I was looking very much forward to it... I was quite keen on getting my turn.”

Khan’s 17-year-old son, Yasin, received his first vaccine dose Saturday at the mosque. Yasin Khan, who attends Boston College High School in a hybrid schedule, said he has missed out on many activities due to the pandemic. Getting vaccinated will allow people to return to normal life, he said.

“It’s important that young people get the vaccine so that we can get back out into society,” he said.

Tooba Gilani, 25, who also received her vaccine Saturday at the mosque, said she hopes more people will have the opportunity to get vaccinated in their communities. People seeing others they know getting vaccinated in a familiar setting could ease fears about the vaccines — “and that is a beautiful benefit to this,” she said.

Gilani said it is part of her “community responsibility” to be someone who gets vaccinated.

“So I can do what I need to do to stop the spread,” Gilani said. “It keeps my loved ones safe and the community around us safe.”

Due to incorrect information provided to the Globe, an earlier version of this story reported a different number of doses administered during Saturday’s clinic.

Dina Sorour has her temperature taken by volunteer Yasin Khan, right, at The Islamic Center in Wayland vaccination clinic.
Dina Sorour has her temperature taken by volunteer Yasin Khan, right, at The Islamic Center in Wayland vaccination clinic. Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

John Hilliard can be reached at john.hilliard@globe.com.