JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – As medical professionals raise concerns about the lack of vaccinations among the youngest age groups eligible for the COVID-19 shots, one local Arab American 13-year-old says she got the vaccine both for her schoolmates here and for her family back in Iraq.
“My family back in Iraq, they still do not have access to the vaccine, especially my cousins who are my age,” Dana Aljubouri said. “I feel privileged here to take the vaccine (and) encourage people to take it so we can save many lives.”
Her grandmother in Iraq was also able to get the vaccine this week, and Dana said she got her COVID-19 shot with her family and friends in mind.
“I want to get up and go to my school and not worry about this -- about the sickness,” Dana said.
There isn’t much COVID-19 related data on Arab Americans like Dana and her mother, Basma Alawee.
A report from the Arab American Family Support Center says many families felt reluctant to get tested for coronavirus because of a lack of medical access and fear of immigration-related repercussions.
Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention doesn’t include Arab vaccination rates.
Basma said this shouldn’t stop people in her community from getting the vaccine.
“Our loved ones are still struggling, our loved ones are still dying back home, while we are here privileged to take it -- and are not taking it on,” Alawee said.
Though her own family did not experience problems getting the vaccine, she encourages those who might encounter issues to reach out to the Florida Immigrant Coalition Health Hotline at 1-888-600-5762.
“If people see any barriers, please speak up,” Alawee said. “Don’t be afraid because we want to make sure that everyone is having access to the vaccine as well.”
Dana and Alawee say getting the vaccine a personal choice -- but one that impacts everyone.
Dana will be going to the eighth grade this year and says even though she’s vaccinated, she’ll wear a mask to protect herself and everyone at school.