Sikh Coalition Lead Vaccine Information Effort

Screenshot of the Sikh Coalition websites "COVID-19 Vaccination Information" campaign homepage. Image shows nurse in scrubs and mask delivering vaccine to patient wearing a button up checked shirt, dastār, glasses, and mask.

As misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccine continues to spread across religious communities in America, some organizations like The Sikh Coalition have launched in-depth COVID-19 vaccine resource guides to help keep their community informed and safe. 

The Sikh Coalition is a community-based non-profit that aims to protect Sikh civil rights across the U.S., and in collaboration with the North American Sikh Medical and Dental Association (NASMDA), the Sikh Family Center, and the Jakara Movement, they are providing critical resources and information regarding COVID-19 and the vaccine to ensure that the approximately 500,000 Sikh-Americans living in the U.S. understand the importance of getting vaccinated. 

The collaborative guide is designed to help people learn and share accurate information about the vaccine, know when and where to get the vaccine, and encourage people to stay safe while everyone who can get vaccinated does so. All the resources are available in both English and Punjabi to increase accessibility. Some of the resources included in the guide are:  

1) State-by-State Vaccine Information: As every state has different rules and processes regarding who can get vaccinated first and how, this comprehensive document directs people to the most up-to-date information possible.  

2) COVID-19 FAQ Videos: These five-minute infomercials include advice from expert medical professionals on frequently asked questions about the COVID-19 vaccines, like: What is a vaccine and why is it important? Is the vaccine safe?  

3) A series of infographics, graphics, and fact sheets on the vaccine: They include infographics on Vaccine Fast FactsBusting Common Myths, and Who are the COVID-19 vaccines for?, among others. 

4) Webinars: On February 27, they hosted a webinar titled ‘Managing the Next Phase of the Pandemic: Best Practices for Safety as the Sangat Gets Vaccinated,’ featuring Sikh medical professionals and gurdwara leaders.  

5) Legal assistance: The coalition is monitoring any news regarding the relationship between citizenship status and vaccinations and updating the community members on a weekly basis.  

In a conversation with IFYC, Rucha Kaur, Sikh Coalition Community Development Director, shared some of the behind-the-scenes of putting together the guide, and the challenges the Sikh community is facing around the vaccine.  

Can you give us an overview of the work The Sikh Coalition has been doing around the country regarding the COVID-19 pandemic?  

We are not by any means a public health organization, but when the CDC declared earlier in March 2020 that COVID-19 is a global pandemic, we organizationally recognized that we must support each other during this time by sharing resources and best practices to ensure that the most vulnerable in our community have had the resources and information that they need it. We started collecting information in both English and Punjabi because we wanted to make sure that resources are language competent, and that they are culturally competent as well. We also wanted to make sure that they have accurate timely information because things were changing very quickly in the beginning. 

So, we shared information like best practices and CDC guidelines for social distancing, or information about things like travel restrictions, benefits packages that were coming out, and guidance for community members to give their doctors and other medical professionals. In 2021, that work has evolved into collaborating with expert medical professionals to ensure that we are providing accurate information about the vaccine, how people can get vaccinated, why it’s important for them to get it, and so on.  

What are some of the challenges the Sikh community is facing around the vaccine?  

I think the challenges that exist in this community are not any different than they are in any other community. We are addressing myths around vaccines, we are addressing misinformation, concerns about variants, vaccine hesitancy, efficiency of vaccines, language access barriers, and other similar issues that affects almost all communities. We're striving to make sure that we're translating all of our work – that's one of our key objectives, because information is evolving so quickly, and we want to make sure that we offer the most up-to-date information that is available and accessible. At the end of the day, each community member is different, and their decision to take or not take the vaccine is entirely their own – it is not our place to tell them what to do. But our role is to ensure that we provide all the necessary information so they can make an informed decision about their choice.  

What Sikh wisdom motivates the work the coalition does?  

The Sikh faith is grounded in social justice and it is grounded in values of service. So, some of my motivation to do the work that I do is to make sure that I'm fighting not just for the rights of Sikhs, but for other minority communities as well that face similar issues. This philosophy is echoed in the work that I do, and across our organization.  

Personally, my understanding of Sikhism is that when you're in the fight for justice, you are fighting for injustice against everyone, not just for yourself. I think vaccination works similarly. It's not just for me, it is to protect a larger community. But again, that’s how I personally view the world, and it’s important to understand that the experiences of every community members is different and their opinion is different.  

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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.