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IRUSA and FEMA Partner to Fight COVID

Houston becomes site for vaccination support by IRUSA

Islamic Relief USA and the Federal Emergency Management Agency are on a mission to get as many people vaccinated as possible. 

IRUSA has teamed up with FEMA again, this time in Houston. For this week, IRUSA volunteers will help out at NRG Stadium (normally home to Houston Texans football team), which is serving as a mass vaccination site.  People could choose vaccines from either Pfizer or Johnson & Johnson.

The organization, along with SEWA International and the American Pharmacist Association, was part of a team of 14 volunteers. They helped out in various non-clinician tasks to ensure people were inoculated. Among them were directing cars that entered the site’s drive-through site, getting people registered, confirming appointments, and helping with supply management and distribution. 

On Tuesday, June 8, 1,029 vaccines were administered at NRG Stadium. Most day the average number of vaccines administered ranged between 600 and 1,800.

Origins of Partnership

The partnership began in March 21 with FEMA’s pop-up clinics in  Pueblo, Colo., where strategic sites were set up to help vaccinate residents who are most in need and are unable to come to mass vaccination sites. IRUSA Disaster Response Team helped check in patients, get them registered, screening, and new patient outreach.

Abdullah Shawky, a specialist with IRUSA’s Disaster Management Team, said FEMA officials took notice of IRUSA officials’ work ethic during that trip. 

“They liked our energy, our willingness to work, our flexibility and being able to pivot to do different things,” he said. 

While the situation regarding Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, has improved considerably in the past few months, enabling many states to feel comfortable enough to drop mask mandates and social distancing requirements, there are still millions of residents who have yet to get vaccinated.

In recent weeks, the vaccination rates have slowed considerably, which could hamper President Joe Biden’s stated goal of getting 70 percent of the country’s population fully vaccinated by the 4th of July. On Monday, for example the Washington Post reported that, on average, fewer than 1 million were getting shots each day. That is down by some 66 percent from 3.4-million shots per-day average in April, the Post said. 

Common reasons include hesitancy, insufficient access, fears, etc. This is where the partnership between FEMA and IRUSA can help educate people on the benefits of the vaccines, and ultimately get them inoculated. 

To combat those factors, government officials around the country have offered an array of incentives, such as giving away food and other items (West Virginia was giving away rifles), and even holding lotteries.

In Texas, for example, Harris County, where NRG Stadium is located, offered scholarships to 10 students to help them pay college costs. 

IRUSA is looking forward to other possible partnerships with FEMA for vaccination sites in New Mexico and Virginia. Details are still being determined.  

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