PATERSON, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — In an effort to vaccinate 70% of it’s population, Paterson is addressing COVID vaccine hesitancy amongst its Muslim population.

The city is home to one of the largest Muslim populations in the country. Mayor Andre Sayegh estimates the number at more than 25,000.

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“We are not seeing enough of our Muslim residents getting vaccinated and so if they are not going to come to us, we are going to go to them,” Sayegh told CBS2’s Meg Baker on Thursday.

The city will set up pop-up vaccination sites at mosques.

“There may be distrust of government or anything affiliated with government,” Sayegh said.


Paterson health officer Dr. Thakur Paul Persaud says when the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was put on hold it elevated fears. He wants to educate the public that it is safe, and the city will be using the one-shot dose to speed up the process.

“We’ve gotten green light to proceed and we are doing this,” Persaud said.

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Vaccine ambassadors will help spread the word.

“An ambassador in Bangladeshi community, we have someone in our Turkish community. We also have someone in our Arab community, primarily Palestinian, who speaks Arabic. We have to have individuals who speak the language,” Sayegh said.


Ambassador Forid Uddin is asking leaders such as imams to inform their congregations.

“Because their voice is taken respectfully,” Uddin said. “That’s how we can keep family safe, they can keep themselves safe.”

The vaccinations will be offered now during Ramadan when more people are visiting mosques.

Paterson previously held pop-up vaccinations at Catholic and Baptist churches.

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CBS2’s Meg Baker contributed to this report

CBSNewYork Team