Organizations to host homeless vaccination clinics on April 14 in Hilo, Kona

  • A homeless man sits on a corner of Kinoole Street in Hilo on Thursday. (Kelsey Walling/Hawaii Tribune-Herald)

HOPE Services Hawaii will work with West Hawaii Community Health Center and Bay Clinic to help vaccinate the Big Island’s homeless population.

HOPE Services CEO Brandee Menino said the first vaccination clinics will be offered April 14 in both Hilo and Kona.

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All three organizations do outreach to engage with those who are unsheltered, and will leverage the street medicine teams’ relationships with the houseless community to coordinate vaccinations “where people are,” she said.

“Relationships with the houseless community is definitely key,” Menino said.

Vaccines, though, are voluntary and individuals can decline.

According to Menino, vaccinations also will be offered in shelters, and West Hawaii Community Health Center will offer a vaccine clinic at the Friendly Place Resource Center in Kailua-Kona.

Bay Clinic does “street outreach” three days a week and sets up a mobile clinic at shelters twice a month, CEO Kimo Alameda said.

“Our niche is to take the vaccine to the most vulnerable individuals — those who lack transportation, internet access and a firm understanding of the registration process.”

Alameda said Bay Clinic’s COVID clinic and street medicine teams will work together to administer doses through these venues.

“The challenge we face with the homeless population is that they’re very transient,” he said. “Hence, they may or may not be available for the vaccine even if we scheduled the appointment the day before. There’s also a huge logistical challenge in setting up the mobile unit, helping register in VAMS (Vaccine Administration Management System) the homeless patients who may or may not have identification, and finding skilled employees to work with this population.”

Menino said the vaccination effort is being planned now because of the option for a single-shot vaccine from Johnson &Johnson.

The transient nature of the homeless population would make it difficult to find the individuals for a second dose of a two-shot vaccination series from Pfizer or Moderna, she said.

“Johnson &Johnson offers a one-time option, and we don’t have to track them down for a second shot,” Menino said.

Some, however, may decline the single-shot vaccine and prefer inoculations from Pfizer or Moderna.

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“We definitely want to give them options as well,” Menino said.

According to Menino, COVID-19 has not proven to significantly impact the Big Island’s homeless community, which she said already tends to segregate itself from and not engage with the broader community.

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