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Small vaccine clinics cater to seniors in hard-hit Pacific Islander community

Updated: Feb. 16, 2021 at 5:52 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Advocates are scrambling to organize more vaccine clinics for Pacific Islander seniors. The community has been hit hardest by the COVID pandemic in Hawaii.

The first clinic last week in Nuuanu was organized through We Are Oceania and the Kalihi-Palama Health Center. A total of 22 doses were available and the spots filled up quickly.

Community center clinics are much smaller than the ones set up at Pier 2 or the Blaisdell Center and target people who cannot access the vaccination websites to make an appointment.

“Technology-wise, the screening tools and things you use to sign up are complicated for a lot of people,” said Andrew Abe of the Hawaii Pandemic Applied Modeling work group.

Micronesians, Samoans and Tongans make up the Pacific Islander community.

The group represents only 4% of the state’s population but account for 23% of Hawaii’s cases, 31% of COVID-19 related hospitalizations, and 23% of deaths.

“It’s essential that we make a proactive effort of immunizing these people to the extent that they will accept it,” said Dr. DeWolfe Miller, epidemiologist at the University of Hawaii.

Language barriers and the lack of technology are reasons health experts say community clinics are needed to help with the injections.

“When they arrive on site our staff from WAO - according to the language that they speak - will sit down with them, fill out the form and after that guide them through the stations,” said Josie Howard, executive director of We are Oceania.

This Friday, another 22 will get a chance to get the shot through WAO and the Kalihi-Palama Health Center. Those spots are also already filled with a waiting list.

Howard hopes more clinics can be scheduled when vaccine doses become available.

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