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“I’m feeling good”: Immigrant and refugee population turn out to get vaccine at clinic despite hesitation among others

Published: Apr. 27, 2021 at 6:06 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - As the pace of people getting COVID-19 vaccines slow in Iowa, a clinic Tuesday at the Catherine McAuley Center in Cedar Rapids aimed to help one group that’s been slow to get vaccinated: immigrants and refugees.

Pigizi Ruhanga was one of about 30 that came out to get the shot.

“I’m feeling good,” Ruhanga, shortly after the shot, said.

Ruhanga said relieving the fear of getting COVID-19 is what ultimately motivated him to get the shot.

“It was stressful, but now we have the vaccine for COVID-19 so I decided this was my chance,” Ruhanga said.

Ruhanga is from the Democratic Republic of Congo. He said he has no hesitations about getting the COVID-19 vaccine, but he said he hears those hesitations regularly among others in his community.

“I had people talking a lot about that. There were so many comments here and there,” Ruhanga said.

Bonnie Lunsford, the McCauley Center’s Healthcare Navigator, said a lot of that has to do with cultural differences.

“There’s so many cultural differences within our own country, and for individuals that are born and raised in other countries and then to come here, it’s very challenging for us to understand where some of that comes from,” Lunsford said.

That’s why, Lunsford said, the center focuses on answering concerns head-on.

“We put flyers in multiple different languages that talk about this and also direct them to a website we have that has some videos with individuals in their own community that talk about COVID, and talk about the vaccine, in hopes that we can increase their awareness and allow them to make an informed choice,” Lunsford said.

It’s not just hesitancy slowing vaccines, but access to appointments, transportation, and even language plays a role.

“Just that language barrier makes it so difficult and any information that is out there that was at our fingertips isn’t always at the fingertips of these individuals,” Lunsford said.

However, now they hope positive experiences, like Ruhanga’s, can be shared to help educate and inspire more to get a shot.

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