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Medical teams hit the street to vaccinate Hawaii’s most vulnerable homeless people

Updated: Mar. 16, 2021 at 10:24 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Medical teams are hitting the streets to take COVID vaccines to homeless camps and shelters across Oahu.

The initiative launched a little over a week ago. Hawaii’s Department of Health says since then, more than 500 homeless people have been immunized.

Last Monday, the dining area at the Institute for Human Services men’s shelter was transformed into a clinic. Dozens of the non-profit’s most vulnerable clients rolled up their sleeves for a jab.

“It really was an effort to get some of our higher risk people vaccinated,” said IHS Executive Director Connie Mitchell.

Eddie Mersereau, deputy director for behavioral health at Hawaii’s Department of Health, said the mobile clinics take a significant amount of prep work beforehand.

“Leading up to it we were doing a lot of education for people,” Mersereau said.

These days, when homeless outreach workers go into encampments, housing isn’t the only thing that’s offered. Since June, Project Vision has provided thousands of COVID-19 tests for Hawaii’s homeless.

Now, it’s spearheading the population’s vaccination effort.

“We try to get some count,” said Mersereau. “Because what we don’t want to do is, we don’t want to show up with not enough vaccine.”

So far, demand has been high.

“Some of the folks are asking for it,” said Mitchell. “When we’re doing outreach. They say when can we get vaccinated?”

Since March 8, immunization clinics have been organized at about a half dozen sites, including Barber’s Point, the Punawai Rest Stop, Waianae Boat Harbor and the HONU at Keehi Lagoon.

Mersereau said, “We’re getting a lot of requests for Johnson & Johnson.”

It’s the only vaccine that doesn’t require a second dose.

Homeless advocates say it’s ideal when you’re immunizing people who are constantly on the move with no reliable phone and internet access.

Two more clinics are scheduled later this week: One at the IHS Women’s and Family shelter and the other in Chinatown.

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