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For Kurdish Americans in Nashville, a beloved leader's death prompts vaccine push

Blake Farmer, Nashville Public Radio, Kaiser Health News on

Published in Health & Fitness

There’s also concern that if the post-vaccination side effects become fairly severe, such as a fever, Muslims might have to break their fast to hydrate. This is typically allowed when someone gets sick during Ramadan, but the whole day has to be made up later in the year.

Nurse practitioner Redor Abdullah said he’s been telling Muslims who hold more conservative interpretations not to risk waiting on the vaccine, even for a few more weeks.

“I would recommend you get it and make up your fast another day,” he said. “It’s better than getting the virus.”

Some Refugees Have Had Traumatic Experiences With Health Care

Nashville’s public health department has had to lean on health care workers in the Kurdish community because it doesn’t have Kurdish workers of its own.

At the Salahadeen Center vaccination events, the people giving the shots are mostly white and English-speaking, with one standout exception: Sumaya Muhamed, a pre-med college student who is Kurdish American. She’s been trained to give COVID-19 shots because she also works part time at a pharmacy.

 

“About 70% of the people who go to Salahadeen are just Kurdish-speaking, so they would all be at my table, because nobody else knew how to help them,” she said.

Their need for cultural assistance goes beyond practical questions about safety. Muhamed explains that many of them are sorting through past trauma related to time spent in refugee camps, and the medical care they received there.

Most of the older Kurds in the Nashville area arrived in the U.S. as refugees, after years spent waiting in various refugee camps. While there, vaccinations were not a choice. And they weren’t always seen as safe. Muhamed said many developed infections.

“I don’t blame them,” Muhamed said of first-generation arrivals. “I would be asking the same thing if I went through that too.”

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