Ismaili Muslim Community and Walmart Collaborate to Vaccinate Georgians 

A drive-up vaccine clinic in May at the Ismaili Jamatkhana in Decatur, Georgia. Courtesy photo.

Last May, more than a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, Walmart Pharmacy and the Ismaili Council for the Southeastern USA collaborated on a vaccine drive that distributed nearly 200 shots of the Pfizer vaccine. Organizers chose Pfizer to include teens between the ages of 12 and 15, who a few days earlier had been given clearance to receive the vaccine.

The event took place at the Ismaili Jamatkhana in Decatur, Georgia. Ismailis are a global community of Shia Muslims residing in 25 countries who are united by their spiritual leader, His Highness the Aga Khan

Fareen Jiwani, an Ismaili Muslim and IFYC alumnus volunteered her time—inspired by a long held tenet of her faith—to help the organizing committees plan the May drive and its June follow up. She applied for and was accepted to the Alumni Vaccine Network with IFYC. The program was created to provide its alumni with a support system and educational resources to promote vaccine initiatives to their local faith communities. 

“The opportunity to join the Alumni Vaccine Network and meet others doing similar work was a chance to approach the vaccine from the perspective of faith,” she said. 

A few things made this vaccine drive special. For one, the Decatur Jamatkhana has gone largely unused during the pandemic. All Ismaili Jamatkhanas around the world are designed to be both places of worship and community engagement, so when the chance to conduct a vaccine drive at one became a possibility, volunteers mobilized immediately to make it a reality. 

In addition, Walmart Pharmacy supplied both the vaccine supply and bilingual pharmacists to administer the shots. The bilingual abilities of the pharmacists was a big reason for the event’s success, organizers said. 

All distancing protocols and guidelines were followed during the drive. Most families were treated while sitting in their cars, and those who walked the grounds did so alone and with masks on. 

Shama Sarangi-Virani is a Pharmacy Clinical Services Manager for Walmart Pharmacy. Part of her role is training her pharmacists and pharmacy technicians to become clinical experts, which entails administering medication properly. Since the onset of the pandemic, her role has evolved into determining what clinical services can be mobilized to bring patient care strategies and wellness programs into the market. Since last March, she has been analyzing pandemic data and trends, poring over vaccine studies, and figuring out ways to make clinics under her direction more adaptable and flexible to patients’ needs. 

The development of a vaccine made her priorities abundantly clear. “Covid taught us we are more agile than we give ourselves credit for,” she said. She went on, detailing how our lives changed overnight and putting us in a position where adapting was the only logical solution. Whether it’s been working remotely, changing daily priorities at work, opening pharmacies earlier so at-risk populations can be served safer, wearing masks, or otherwise, everyone has been impacted by the pandemic. Therefore, it falls on all of us to do our part to end it. 

Ultimately, volunteers from every organization knew they were doing work that will be talked about generations from now. How, during a global pandemic that upended lives, they took action to ensure the safety of their communities and came together at a time when divides were becoming more drastic and costly. 

The Ismaili Council for the Southeastern USA, the social governing body of the Ismaili community in the southeastern region of the USA, was grateful for the opportunity to serve their communities during these challenging times. Islam is a faith that teaches compassion, generosity, sharing and caring. The ethic of voluntary service is, thus, a strongly marked trait of Muslim tradition and therefore the community will continue to serve their neighbors and friends to improve the quality of human life. 


Asif Lakhani is an Atlanta-based journalist, podcaster and stand-up comedian. He is also a member of the Ismaili community. His work has appeared in Atlanta Magazine, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, trade publications, and more. He graduated from the University of Missouri Journalism school in 2012. He works in tech during the day and performs at various venues around Atlanta in the evenings. Writing is his first love and something he always tries to make time for whenever his schedule allows.


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The opinions contained in this piece are solely the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Interfaith Youth Core. Interfaith America encourages a wide range of views and strives to maintain a respectful tone with a goal of greater understanding and cooperation between people of different faiths, worldviews, and traditions.