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HMC bids aloha to vaccine clinic

After nearly a year of vaccinating the community, Hilo Medical Center’s COVID-19 clinic at The Arc of Hilo has closed. 

Health care workers at The Arc of Hilo administered 35,665 vaccine doses and 4,484 booster shots within the year and inoculated about 150 people Monday, the clinic’s final day.

“It’s a little bittersweet to be closing the clinic,” said HMC spokeswoman Elena Cabatu. “It’s been almost a year since our first vaccine recipients. That day was monumental and was the beginning of the transition to a better life during the pandemic.”

HMC started vaccinating frontline health care workers and vulnerable populations last December.

“When the data started showing us how effective vaccinations are, we knew what we needed to do here, and the fight was crystal clear,” Cabatu said. “The vaccines brought us a moment of hope and kept us proactive while fighting the virus.”

As more people were approved for the vaccines, HMC started holding mass vaccination clinics at Edith Kanaka‘ole Multi-Purpose Stadium with health care workers volunteering their time.

The clinic was then moved to The Arc of Hilo in March so the vaccine team could have a larger space to vaccinate more people five days a week. In the beginning, the clinic was vaccinating up to 300 people a day.

Jaime-Rose Tangonan worked as the pharmacy vaccine coordinator at clinic for about nine months and watched as the community continually walked in for vaccinations.

“Working at The Arc was a great experience with a great team of people,” Tangonan said. “It was so important for us to take care of the community, and we saw others make that choice for their loved ones every time someone was vaccinated.”

HMC staff worked closely with the Hawaii National Guard, and one employee even came out of retirement to help with the vaccinations.

Despite the recent discovery outside the U.S. of the omicron variant of COVID-19, HMC is not hesitant to close its clinic since pharmacies such as KTA, CVS and Safeway have taken the reins in vaccination efforts.

“There is no nervousness in closing the clinic. We still have clinics that will take appointments, and the local pharmacies have really stepped up,” Cabatu said. “We had to step up in the beginning and fill in the gap, but I think others are ready to take up the mantle.”

HMC will continue to encourage their patients get vaccinated to keep up the fight against COVID-19.

“With the omicron variant, I think it’s important for all of us to take a pause, open our ears and wait for information before reacting,” Cabatu said. “We will keep encouraging vaccines and boosters, because even if we’re done, COVID is not done fighting us.”

Michele Mitsumori came to The Arc on the clinic’s last day to get her Pfizer booster shot.

“COVID is going to be around for a while, and I have older parents, so I definitely wanted to get the booster when it was approved,” Mitsumori said. “It’s our kuleana, especially with this other variant.

“I’m doing it for others and for friends and family who can’t get the shot.”

Those wishing to get vaccinated through HMC can call its clinic in Keaau for appointments at (808) 932-3830.

Other vaccine clinics in Hawaii County can be found at

Email Kelsey Walling at
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald

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