Pharmacists fan out to small care homes to vaccinate at-risk kupuna

Updated: Jan. 28, 2021 at 6:50 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - As part of a new state program, pharmacists and nurses are going directly to small residential care and foster homes to vaccinate fragile and isolated kupuna.

Among those who got the shot Wednesday: 82-year-old Patricia Souza, who lives in an Ewa Beach foster home. “I was lucky that I got to do it,” she said.

“I’m hoping that it gives me a lot of power.”

For many in the residential care home community, life during the pandemic has been about living shut in because of fear of the deadly virus.

“This is a big relief. We feel like there’s a little sunshine beyond this. Instead of being caught literally we are trapped,” said Ricky Mericle, the owner of the foster home where Souza and two other patients live.

The new partnership between the state and independent pharmacist kicked off last week.

“Every day we are vaccinating 130 people across 20 homes on Oahu on a daily basis and we plan to do this over the course of three weeks,” said Reece Uyeno, Pharmacare Hawaii clinical pharmacy manager.

“We don’t plan on stopping until we get to every home to get the shot,” he added.

The state hopes to vaccinate patients and caregivers in 1,700 licensed care homes by summer.

So far, about a third got the first dose ― with 5,400 shots administered last week.

“It is a lot especially with the time frame that the small pharmacies have been able to get up and running and go out there,” said Edward Mersereau, deputy director of the Behavioral Health Administration at the Hawaii Department of Health.

“You are only vaccinating four to six people at a site and then you are moving on to the next site,” he added.

Despite supply shortages from the federal government, state health officials say they are fairly confident they’ve got enough vaccine for the residents’ second dose.

The state Health Department is contacting the care homes to schedule appointments.

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