Additional Big Isle sites to get vaccinated

  • OKAMURA

Big Island pharmacies are beginning to offer in-store COVID-19 vaccinations.

By Thursday, KTA Super Stores will offer the inoculations at its four Big Island pharmacies. Vaccines will be administered by appointment only for individuals 75 and older.

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Kerri Okamura, director of pharmacy operations for KTA, said the grocer’s pharmacies are finishing efforts to administer first doses of the vaccine to adult residential care home and adult foster home residents, but began providing in-store vaccines to people 75 and older this week.

Vaccinations already started at the Hilo Puainako and Keauhou stores, and will begin today in Waimea and Thursday in Waikoloa.

Okamura said KTA is hoping to administer about 20 doses per day per pharmacy, “so it’s not a huge amount,” but will have to see whether the efforts can be scaled up or need to be scaled back.

Okamura said the pharmacies are working through a waiting list, but people should be able to schedule online in the near future, or can call the pharmacy and press 6 to leave a message to schedule an appointment.

The waiting list was started about a week ago in anticipation of getting vaccines in the pharmacies, she said.

“I think people need to be patient, because we want to make sure we’re following the state’s guidelines for the rollout,” Okamura said. “I know there’s a lot of people anxious to get the vaccine, but we really need to make sure that the vaccine we’re allocated is given to the (75-and-older) population at this time.”

Okamura said KTA is offering Moderna vaccines, which can be refrigerated. The vaccines are allocated by the state Department of Health.

CVS Health also will begin offering vaccines from Moderna to eligible populations at seven Longs Drugs pharmacies in Hawaii beginning Feb. 11, the retailer announced Tuesday.

Vaccines at participating Longs locations — which include stores in Hilo; Honolulu; Kahului, Maui; Kaneohe, Oahu; and Kapaa, Kauai — will be available to individuals who meet state rollout guidelines.

A CVS spokeswoman did not identify which Longs Drugs in Hilo would offer the vaccinations, but said a list of specific stores will be available at CVS.com as stores receive doses and appointments become available.

Appointments can be booked as early as Feb. 9.

About 4,400 doses initially will be available.

Patients must register in advance at CVS.com or through the CVS Pharmacy app. Those without online access can call 800-746-7287. Walk-in vaccinations without appointments will not be provided.

The availability of vaccines at pharmacies will help address the demand seen at vaccine clinics operated by island hospitals.

“Now that they’re coming online as an option for our community to select from, it will alleviate the demand on our vaccine clinic, allowing us to concentrate on the kupuna population that really needs our help in terms of mobility access and that little extra TLC,” said Hilo Medical Center spokeswoman Elena Cabatu.

HMC has administered more than 5,000 doses since Dec. 23, and provides more than 200 shots each day.

The hospital is currently focusing on vaccinating kupuna 75 and older and, as of Tuesday, there is a three- to four-week wait for an appointment.

The Associated Press reported Tuesday that the Biden administration will begin shipping COVID-19 vaccines to U.S. pharmacies next week, ramping up vaccinations as new and potentially more serious virus strains are appearing.

Coronavirus coordinator Jeff Zients said some 6,500 pharmacies throughout the country will receive a total of 1 million doses of vaccine.

The number of participating pharmacies is expected to grow as drugmakers increase production, allowing more doses to be allocated, according to the AP.

Drug stores have become a mainstay for flu shots and shingles vaccines, and the industry is capable of vaccinating tens of millions of people monthly, according to the AP report.

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“This will provide more sites for people to get vaccinated in their communities,” said Zients, underscoring that due to supply constraints the initial availability will be limited.

Email Stephanie Salmons at ssalmons@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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