Hundreds of West Hawaii educators and kupuna received a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine Thursday during the first of many vaccination “mega clinics” to be held in Kailua-Kona.
Some 563 people, including approximately 360 educators, were inoculated with the Pfizer vaccine during Thursday’s closed COVID-19 vaccination POD, or point of dispensing, held at Kekuaokalani Gymnasium, according to Kona Community Hospital Spokeswoman Judy Donovan.
The closed POD “mega clinics” are being put on thanks to a partnership between Kona Community Hospital, Alii Health Center, West Hawaii Community Health Center, state Department of Health, Hawaii County and the Hawaii National Guard. Kona Community Hospital is operating the clinic on Thursdays, the Department of Health on Tuesdays and West Hawaii Community Health Center on Fridays, starting March 5.
After working out a couple issues in the morning, which included addressing a rush of patients because people showed up way ahead of their appointment and a couple computer glitches, the clinic “flowed smoothly,” and all who were registered received their shot.
“I have to say it was very smooth. I think everybody, for the most part was in a good mood about it,” Donovan said. ‘
The indoor operation featured six check-in stations, 10 vaccine stations and a dedicated health desk station. Half of the gym is a dedicated observation area.
“We’re aiming for 100 people an hour, and the first day things went really well,” Donovan said. “The partnership here is amazing.”
The hospital hopes to do at least 600 vaccinations next Thursday, and eventually aim for up to 900 per day.
The “mega clinics” are not open to the public, meaning people can’t just walk up and receive a shot. Instead, they must register and receive an appointment from one of the three operators.
Those currently eligible to be vaccinated are in the Phase 1B priority group, which includes seniors 75 and older and frontline essential workers, which include (but are not limited to) grocers, box stores, agriculture, essential farm workers, food manufacturing (not restaurants).
Only the Department of Health is currently administering the Moderna vaccine to all eligible persons in Phase 1B. Kona Community Hospital and West Hawaii Community Health Center plan to focus on kupuna age 75 and older, offering the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, respectively.
Donovan said the hospital plans to begin contacting next week persons who pre-registered that are age 70 and older, in line with the Department of Health’s recommendation last week. Staff is also in the beginning process of contacting frontline essential workers.
The hospital also continues to operate clinics at its site in Kealakekua on Wednesdays and Thursdays, inoculating upward of 200 persons per day. She said there is ample supply of the vaccine.
“Right now it just looks fine, and somehow the snow stuff didn’t mess us up,” she said.
Adults age 75 and older are eligible to schedule an appointment to receive the Moderna vaccine via the Department of Health by calling (808) 300-1120. Frontline essential workers will receive vaccinations coordinated through their employer or industry organizations. Organizations with frontline essential workers in Phase 1b should complete not more than one online survey available at www.hawaiicovid19.com/vaccine.
Kupuna 75 and greater can contact Kona Community Hospital to register and set up an appointment by calling (808) 322-4451. Information can also be obtained via email to KCHCOVIDvaccine@hhsc.org.
Patients age 75 and older of the West Hawaii Community Health Center, which serves about 25% of the West Hawaii population via clinics from Kealakekua to Waikoloa, can request an appointment online at https://www.westhawaiichc.org/covid-19-vaccine-appointments or by calling (808) 334-2186. To receive a vaccine, a person must become a WHCHC patient first.
Hawaii to date has been awarded 462,050 COVID-19 vaccine doses of which 417,590 had been received as of Friday, according to the state.
Of the doses of Pfizer and Moderna received, 336,901 doses have been administered statewide, including more than 38,500 on the Big Island.
An estimated 14.4% of the state’s population has received at least one dose and 7.8% have received two doses. Sixty-one percent of kupuna 75 and older have received at least one dose.
On the Big Island, 13.5% of the population has received at least one dose and 5.7% two doses, according to the Department of Health.