In key step toward fully reopening campuses, state to launch school-based vaccination clinics

Updated: May. 5, 2021 at 5:03 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The state is partnering with health care organizations in the islands to kick off a series of vaccination clinics for teens and their families at Hawaii high schools.

The push comes as education officials scramble to prepare for a full reopening of schools in the fall and coronavirus spreads amongst young people.

Last week, DOE campuses had 43 coronavirus cases and all except one were students.

Vaccinations, officials said, are key to that effort.

“Keiki are critically important,” said Dr. Jill Hoggard Green, president and CEO of the Queen’s Health Systems. “We know that they can spread the disease so we know that our ability to vaccinate is important and CDC right now is allowing us from 16 on up to vaccinate.”

Hoggard Green says the hospital’s Punchbowl facility is seeing an uptick in hospitalizations to 24 and an increase in younger patients.

Those involved include the Queen’s Health Systems, Hawaii Pacific Health, Kaiser Permanente, Adventist Health Castle, Waianae Coast Comprehensive Health Center, and the state Department of Health.

“We are doing this as a whole community,” Green said. “Everybody is leaning in.”

The clinics will begin Thursday at Waipahu High School.

“The people that I’ve talked to are interested in getting vaccinated,” said Waipahu High School Principal Keith Hayashi. “I’m hoping that the information that we are putting out to our families will encourage them to take advantage of this opportunity.”

Hayashi added, “We are hoping that providing opportunities like this at our high school campus at our high school, we can help pick things up and really get individuals vaccinated.”

The school is in a rotation schedule now and they hope to have all students return in the fall. He says Hawaii Pacific Health will be bringing its large vaccination bus on campus Thursday.

Eight clinics are planned for next week and 10 the following week.

DOE says 23 Oahu schools will have clinics this month and planning is underway for the neighbor islands.

There are more than 32,300 students ages 16 to 22 and nearly 54,600 students ages 12 to 15 years old, but it’s not known how many students and family members will sign up.

“The people that I’ve talked to are interested in getting vaccinated. I’m hoping that the information that we are putting out to our families will encourage them to take advantage of this opportunity,” said Hayashi.

Queen’s will be running clinics at McKinley, Mililani, Waialua and Leilehua high schools.

Additional details on how teens and their families can sign up will be released through the DOE.

Those 16 and up are eligible for the Pfizer shot. Health care organizations say the clinics will also be open to family members.

Hawaii high schools spent the entire academic year in full or partial distance learning — in large part because social distancing wasn’t feasible on many high school campuses.

The state hasn’t yet released a detailed plan for fully reopening high schools this fall, but officials have said they are working toward that goal.

The health care community is hoping for emergency use approval the the Pfizer vaccine for 12 year olds and older as early as next week. That’s when planning can start moving into the middle schools.

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