May 23—More than 400 people, most of them students, received their first doses of coronavirus vaccine Saturday when Hawaii Pacific Health's COVID-19 Vax Squad Bus visited Punahou School.
Since May 6 the health care system's mobile vaccination clinic—a retrofitted tour bus staffed with medical and clinical personnel trained to administer the shots—has been parking at select schools across the island, offering free vaccinations to students ages 12 and older and their family members. During Saturday's visit, more than 360 students were vaccinated.
Lee Young-Kingsbury took his two sons, Nakoa, 16, and Nalu, 17, to the mobile clinic. Nakoa, a 10th grader who runs cross country and track at Punahou, said practice was limited during the school year and he hopes things return to normal in the fall.
"I'm just looking forward to the events opening up more at my school. They'll be able to allow more people on the team that I'm on, " he said.
Caryn and Corey Matsu oka said getting their kids, Chasen and Cayden, vaccinated will enable their summer plans. Chasen, a ninth grader at Punahou, is planning to attend a Boy Scout summer camp in New Mexico.
"It's going to be a hiking camp where we go out with a small patrol ... and then for a week and a half, we camp and hike, " he said.
Both boys have birthdays during the summer and are looking forward to the possibility of spending them in person with friends. "We just talked about their birthdays coming up, " Corey Matsuoka said. "If all their friends can get vaccinated, it would be nice to have a normal party. ... We're talking about going axe-throwing or something."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced May 12 that the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. All the Vax Squad Bus vaccines have been the Pfizer shots.
Dr. Shilpa Patel, HPH's physician liaison for quality and patient safety, said the bus allows people to get vaccinated in a familiar setting—their local high schools. Nearly 3, 000 people have been vaccinated at the mobile clinic, which has visited more than a dozen schools so far. Punahou was the first private school that was served.
About 90 % of Punahou's 3, 800 or so students have already returned to in-person learning with safety measures in place, but President Mike Latham said the school can get even closer to near-normalcy once the fall semester starts.
"The real benefit, I think, is coming up in the fall, and if we have a population that is increasingly vaccinated—faculty, staff, students—that just means we can move even further back into the full range of activities that kind of define the nature of student life on campus, " Latham said.
That could include events in the chapel, theater performances and athletic competitions, although mask use, eating lunch in smaller groups and other precautions will probably continue.
HPH will return to Punahou School on June 12 to administer the second vaccine doses to those who were vaccinated Saturday.
Eligible Hawaii youths also such as Longs Drugs pharmacies and the mass vaccination centers at the Blaisdell Center and Pier 2. The Queen's Health Systems and Kaiser Permanente also are conducting mobile vaccinations at schools, Patel said.
The COVID-19 Vax Squad Bus will head to the University of Hawaii at Manoa on Saturday, and students along with the general public will be allowed to get vaccinated. Other upcoming visits include Castle High School on Tuesday, Waipahu Intermediate School on Wednesday, Waipahu High School on Thursday, Kapolei High School on Friday, Campbell High School on June 1, Pearl City High School on June 2, Farrington High School on June 3 and Aiea High School on June 4.
Appointments can be scheduled online at HawaiiPacificHealth.org /COVIDVaxSquad. Parents who won't be accompanying their children ages 12 to 17 must complete the Department of Education vaccination consent form available on the HPH scheduling webpage and have their child bring it with them to their appointment.