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Vaccinating the masses: Majority who signed up for shots at HMC clinic ‘were a lot younger’

More than 5,100 people received a COVID-19 vaccine Saturday at a mass vaccination clinic hosted by Hilo Medical Center.

It was the hospital’s first clinic that was broadly opened to anyone 16 and older.

Because of the limited amount of vaccines allocated to the state, inoculation efforts in Hawaii have been prioritized by occupations, age and health conditions since they began in late December.

But as the number of doses coming into the state increased, and because of the unique characteristics of each island, the state Department of Health last week announced that neighbor islands would have the ability to expand vaccine eligibility as needed to ensure all vaccination slots are filled.

HMC announced Thursday, days ahead of the mass vaccination clinic Saturday, that it would expand eligibility to individuals 16 and older.

Hospital spokeswoman Elena Cabatu said in the 24 hours prior to Saturday’s POD, or point of dispensing, more than 1,000 people scheduled and registered for appointments.

“Without having opened (eligibility) up, there’s no way we could have filled the POD,” Cabatu said.

All told, however, HMC signed up more than 3,000 people in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention vaccine system after expanding eligibility.

A majority of those who signed up “were a lot younger,” Cabatu said.

According to data provided by the hospital, 5,150 people received shots Saturday, including 578 people ages 16-20, 517 people 21-30, 718 people 31-40, 947 people 51-60 and 1,615 people 61 and older.

HMC on Saturday also administered its 25,000th vaccine dose.

While it’s great to hit “a big number,” clinic administrator Jennifer Aguiar said “it’s still so daunting because there’s so much more to go and so many more people who need a vaccine.”

HMC will host another mass vaccination clinic April 24 at the Edith Kanakaole Multi-Purpose Stadium in Hilo.

Another 4,000-5,000 doses of vaccine will be administered at that POD, but Aguiar said the hospital is still gauging demand.

The Pfizer vaccine, which is being offered by Big Island hospitals, has been authorized for individuals 16 and older, while vaccines from Moderna and Johnson &Johnson are approved for adults 18 and older.

As of Monday, everyone in Phase 2 of the state’s two-phase vaccination plan was eligible to register for a COVID-19 vaccine at sites around the county, including vaccine clinics from Bay Clinic, the Hawaii District Health Office, Hamakua Kohala Health, HMC, Kaiser Permanente, Kona Community Hospital, KTA Super Stores and Queens North Hawaii Community Hospital.

More information about these sites and others can be found online at bit.ly/BigIslandvaccines.

Email Stephanie Salmons at ssalmons@hawaiitribune-herald.com.
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald

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