In attempt to cut down on ER visits, nurses hit the streets to vaccinate homeless

WAIKIKI (HawaiiNewsNow) - In the midst of one of the worst flu seasons in recent memory, Hawaii nurses have started vaccinating homeless people on the street.

"It's really important from a public health perspective to get out there and make flu vaccines available," said Connie Mitchell, executive director of the Institute for Human Services.

On a drizzly Friday, an IHS outreach team walked the streets of Waikiki looking for people to vaccinate.

"Would you be interested in a flu vaccine?" said Justin Phillips asked a homeless person.

The traveling clinic was a first — so it wasn't clear how many people would accept the vaccination.

Turned out, the majority of people who were offered the shot agreed to get one. In the first hour, outreach nurses went through half of their supply.

"We were motivated by the fact that we were seeing the flu in the shelters and with our staff. I just felt like for a lot of the folks on the street they are particularly vulnerable," Mitchell said.

After answering a few quick questions and signing a consent form, a nurse administered the free vaccination.

"It's important to get out here and get ahead of it. Help our clients stay out of the hospital. Stay healthy," said IHS nurse Heather Wahab.

William Schaeffer has been homeless about a month. He said he had been wanting a vaccine after hearing about the epidemic on the mainland and the traveling clinic made getting one convenient.

"I just figured it would be a good idea with all the people dying," said Schaeffer. "I didn't have to go nowhere. Came right to me,"

All of the vaccines were donated by 5-Minute Pharmacy. With every dose, organizers hope they'll prevent that person from catching the flu.

"It's really in the long run going to save a lot of money if people end up not going to the hospital," said Mitchell.

Because the flu vaccines were so well received IHS says it plans to do additional clinics in the very near future.

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