Hawaii health officials are working with local pharmacies to offer drive-thru and in-home COVID-19 vaccinations for residents and caregivers of small residential care homes as Hawaii prepares to significantly ramp up immunizations statewide.
“This is another major step forward in the implementation of our state’s vaccination plan,” Health Director Libby Char said Friday in a news release. “With residents and staff of larger long-term care facilities such as assisted living communities now in progress, we’re now turning our attention to residential care homes and community care foster family homes.”
The Department of Health this week started scheduling Oahu’s licensed care homes, while drive-thru clinics, county hubs and other mobile services already have begun on the neighbor islands.
Pharmacies including ElixRx Pharmacy, 5 Minute Pharmacy, Foodland Pharmacy, KTA Pharmacy, Pharmacare Hawaii, The Queen’s Medical Center Pharmacy and Times Pharmacy have been assigned to licensed care homes based on ZIP code. There are more than 1,200 community care foster family homes, in addition to about 445 adult residential care homes, and nearly 50 homes for those with developmental disabilities.
Health officials have mapped every ZIP code in the state to one of the nearly dozen hospitals acting as vaccination hubs in order to speed up the number of shots in arms for health care workers — both affiliated and independent doctors and medical practices that register on the DOH website. The registration information is sent daily to the Healthcare Association of Hawaii, which sorts it by ZIP code and forwards it to the respective hospitals for appointments.
The Health Department is working directly with employers to “identify employees working in critical front-line positions,” to inoculate them at specific pods. The DOH, which has coordinated immunizations for thousands of front-line essential workers — including police officers, firefighters, paramedics and public safety workers — is expected to go live in about a week with an online portal where qualified workers will be able to register.
Separately, the Health Department is working with the Department of Education to coordinate inoculation schedules for Oahu teachers in an effort to safely reopen schools. Some teachers on the neighbor islands already have received shots.
“It’s not a free-for-all where anybody can put in their information and expect to be placed in the right pod,” said DOH spokeswoman Janice Okubo. “There’s so many moving parts because a lot of different groups have to be accommodated. At the same time, we have to distribute vaccines not just to multiple islands, but multiple organizations that are administering the vaccine.”
Meanwhile, Hawaii Pacific Health — parent company of Kapiolani Medical Center for Women & Children, Straub Medical Center, Pali Momi Medical Center and Wilcox Health on Kauai — is preparing to roll out immunizations to those 75 and older at Pier 2 on Monday, and The Queen’s Medical Center a week later at the Neal S. Blaisdell Center.
Health officials are using primary care physician rosters to identify and reach out to eligible kupuna as well as other high-risk populations. The DOH was expected Friday to post registration links for COVID-19 clinics at hawaiicovid19.com.
Health officials reported 150 new coronavirus infections, bringing the state’s total since the start of the pandemic to 24,058 cases. The state’s official coronavirus-related death toll remains at 318, with no new deaths reported.
More than 56,000 individuals had been inoculated with at least one dose of the vaccine as of Friday, and 152,650 shots had been delivered in the islands, including 39,700 this week, the DOH said.
Hospital vaccination hubs are administering from 500 to 9,000 doses per week and are on varying schedules, with some well into the next priority group of 75 and older and front-line essential workers, according to the Healthcare Association of Hawaii.
While concurrent initiatives are ongoing across the islands, vaccinations are being given by appointment only, with no walk-in availability at this point as supply catches up with demand, the DOH said.
“We understand lots of people are eager to be vaccinated. Everyone’s turn will come, but until then we ask that people please be patient.”