Expressions of relief and thankfulness were plentiful Saturday at the Edith Kanaka‘ole Multi-Purpose Stadium during a mass vaccination event in Hilo.
With help from more than 200 volunteers, Hilo Medical Center hosted its second mass vaccination clinic — a closed POD, or point of dispensing — which serviced 4,000 people from Hawaii County who qualified for the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.
The POD was open to 2,000 people from HMC’s first vaccination clinic who needed a second dose of the Pfizer vaccine. Another 2,000 people, specifically frontline workers in the Phase 1B category and kupuna over 70, were invited to receive their first dose during the event.
The first appointments began lining up before 8 a.m. Saturday, with people streaming in and out of the stadium until the last vaccinations at 4 p.m. With 36 vaccine tables operating at once, the event ran quickly and steadily.
“This has been going smoothly all day thanks to our volunteers from across the community,” spokeswomen Elena Cabatu said. “We have the National Guard, employees from HMC, Kiwanis Club, some teachers and so many other groups helping us out.”
Marked by bright orange shirts, volunteers helped check people in for their appointments, monitored the lines so everyone knew where to go, administered vaccines, and helped people plan their appointments for second doses.
“We would not be able to make this happen without our leadership leading by example throughout this process,” Cabatu said. “We have employees here that even brought their teenagers to help. It’s wonderful to see.”
HMC CEO Dan Brinkman was one of the many volunteers administering vaccines to the community throughout the day.
“Looking around at the over 200 volunteers here today, they are just a great example of how close Hilo is as a community,” Brinkman said.
Krystle Marcellus traveled from Honomu to receive her first dose of the Pfizer vaccine. She works at a small, wood manufacturing company and was able to qualify as a 1B frontline worker.
“After the year we’ve had, this is very relieving,” Marcellus said. “Once we’re fully vaccinated, going to work is going to feel much better.”
Big Island teachers have been able to get the vaccine for a few weeks, with many elementary students returning to school in a blended learning model.
Wendi Kimura is a kindergarten teacher at Keaukaha Elementary School, and decided to attend the vaccination event to get her second dose.
“I was hesitant to the vaccine at first, because I wasn’t sure how it would affect me,” Kimura said. “But my students came back to school last week, and I want to be safe for them since they can’t get the vaccine themselves.”
Kimura also brought her in-laws to help them get their vaccines, since they are kupuna 70 and older.
“This event was perfect for me and allowed me to help out my family,” Kimura said. “I’m excited to go back to the classroom and feel safer around the kids.”
Joe Curbelo is a manager at Target and was able to come to the POD for his second dose of the vaccine.
“It’s definitely a relief, and I’m glad I could get this done,” Curbelo said. “I also saw many people that I work with in line, and it makes me happy to see them get vaccinated, too.”
Pharmacist Jarred Prudencio helped organize the event and vaccinate people throughout the day.
“It feels really good to be part of this today, and it’s incredible to see how many people we can actually reach right now,” Prudencio said. “The positivity buzzing in the room is so needed, and it’s made the time today even better.”
Cabatu said those receiving their first doses at Saturday’s POD will be invited to HMC’s next vaccination clinic on April 3 to get their second doses, where another 4,000 doses will be administered.
Email Kelsey Walling at firstname.lastname@example.org