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HMC pre-schedules 700-plus COVID vaccine doses for keiki ages 12-17

  • KELSEY WALLING/Tribune-Herald file photo Kymberlyn Hashimoto, 16, receives a COVID-19 vaccine shot from Dan Brinkman on April 3 during a mass vaccination event hosted by Hilo Medical Center at Edith Kanakaole Multi-Purpose Stadium in Hilo. HMC is now preparing for its final mass vaccination clinic, slated for this Saturday at the stadium.

  • CABATU

Hilo Medical Center is preparing to vaccinate 2,000 people during its final mass vaccination clinic at the Edith Kanakaole Multi-Purpose Stadium on Saturday morning in Hilo.

HMC so far has scheduled 1,700 appointments for its vaccination POD, or point of dispensing, with many of the appointments going to adolescents ages 12-17.

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The Food and Drug Administration on Monday approved Pfizer’s request to allow its COVID-19 vaccine to be given to children ages 12-15 on an emergency use basis.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s vaccine advisory committee scheduled a meeting today to review the vaccinations for kids. If approved as expected, HMC will begin distributing the vaccine to the younger age group.

To prepare for the change in distribution, HMC already pre-scheduled more than 700 doses for children 12-17 years old for Saturday’s POD and the hospital’s clinic at The Arc of Hilo.

“We’ve seen a lot of interest from this age group because it is the last phase for a lot of families who want everyone to be vaccinated,” said HMC spokeswoman Elena Cabatu. “Parents also want their kids to get vaccinated to prepare for the next school year.”

Many families have also mentioned to Cabatu that they want to vaccinate their children before going on summer vacations together.

“Vaccines opening up to kids 12-15 makes it the safest thing to do to ensure safe family travel this year,” said Dr. Charles Okamura. “The community has really worked together to get our people of Hawaii vaccinated. It will be the thing that helps the community turn a corner.”

Next Monday, HMC will begin offering the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine at the East Hawaii Health Clinic in Keaau located at 16-523 Keaau-Pahoa Road. The clinic will allow walk-ins to anyone in need of the vaccine.

“We’re also looking to distribute Pfizer to our rural clinics,” said Kris Wilson, assistant hospital administrator. “There are a few logistics to work out as far as storing the vaccine, but we’re hoping to get that done over the summer.”

As HMC moves away from the mass vaccination PODs, there will be more vaccine distribution to clinics and pharmacies, which might be more equipped to serve walk-ins and regular patients.

“It’s nice to see that we’ve done so much and could give upwards of 40,000 doses,” Wilson said. “It’s time to have our pharmacy partners and clinics step in and make the vaccines more widely available throughout the county.”

HMC is planning to open The Arc of Hilo vaccination clinic to walk-ins in June and July.

To sign up to be vaccinated Saturday at HMC’s final mass vaccination POD, visit www.hilomedicalcenter.org/.

Beginning today, Queen’s North Hawaii Community Hospital in Waimea will offer the Pfizer vaccine for people 12 and older. A parent or legal guardian must accompany those younger than 18.

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QNHCH also is opening the vaccination clinic to walk-ins from 7 a.m.-6 p.m. today.

Email Kelsey Walling at kwalling@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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