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Big Island hospitals prepared to begin vaccinating youth

  • LAURA RUMINSKI/West Hawaii Today file photo A COVID vaccine is administered during a Kona Community Hospital clinic in March at Kekuaokalani Gym.

Kona Community Hospital expects to begin vaccinating people as young as 12 with Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine as early as Friday.

The announcement follows the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Monday expansion of the use of Pfizer’s two-dose vaccine for youth ages 12-15. Pfizer’s vaccine has been approved for children as young as 16 since April.

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Though the FDA has given its go-ahead, an advisory committee of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will review the data Wednesday and make recommendations for the vaccine’s use for those ages. If approved, shots could begin hitting that age group’s arms as early as Thursday.

Kona Community Hospital was expecting the expanded use authorization and began pre-registering youth ages 12-15 a couple of weeks ago, said Judy Donovan, regional director of marketing and strategic planning for the hospital.

“If they announce on Wednesday, we will be prepared to go on Friday,” said Donovan. “We are absolutely ready.”

Friday will be the hospital’s first vaccine clinic day following the expected approval of the expanded use authorization. No “mega clinic” will be conducted this Thursday at Kekuaokalani Gymnasium in Kailua-Kona as the hospital winds down the operation because of dwindling demand for the vaccine. The final “mega clinic” will be May 20.

The hospital will continue operating the vaccination clinic at its campus off Haukapila Street through month’s end. Appointments are available on May 21 and 28, only.

“We have hundreds of available appointment slots, both at KCH and the aquatic center/gym,” Donovan said, encouraging residents to sign up for inoculation.

Those who receive their first dose on May 20 at the gymnasium and May 28 at the hospital will have their second dose administered by the hospital on June 17.

For appointments, contact the KCH Call Center at 808-322-4451 or KCHCOVIDvaccine@hhsc.org.

Queen’s North Hawaii Community Hospital spokeswoman Lynn Scully said the Waimea hospital was awaiting for final word from the state on opening shots to youth ages 12-15, but is ready to adjust to accommodate the new age group.

In the meantime, the hospital expanded hours for its Wednesday walk-in clinic to 7 a.m.-6 p.m. People who prefer an appointment on another day are asked to email QNHCHvaccine@queens.org and include their name, date of birth and phone number, or call 808-881-4668. Appointments are available Monday through Friday.

Hilo Medical Center has been pre-registering youth as young as age 12 for the vaccine since last week. Vaccinations will be administered on Saturday at Edith Kanakaole Multi-purpose Stadium in Hilo, as well as by appointment at the Arc of Hilo.

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West Hawaii Community Health Center and the state Department of Health each offer the Moderna two-dose vaccine, which has been approved only for those 18 years of age and older.

Email Chelsea Jensen at cjensen@westhawaiitoday.com.

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