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Hilo High Holds COVID Vaccination Clinic for Students, Families

By Tiffany DeMasters
May 29, 2021, 7:30 AM HST
* Updated May 29, 7:32 AM
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Approximately 100 students received one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at Hilo High School’s first vaccination clinic on Friday, May 28.

As Big Island hospitals have ended their mass clinics, the Hawai‘i Department of Education (HIDOE) has taken it upon themselves to work to get students vaccinated before the 2021-22 school year in collaboration with local pharmacies and the Department of Health. Schools across the state are holding clinics, which is part of HIDOE’s effort to bring students back to campus full time after a year of distance and blended learning.

Earlier this month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) approved the two-dose Pfizer vaccine for everyone 12 years of age and older. On Hawai‘i Island, there are 14,143 students that fall into the approved age range.

Jasmine Urasaki, principal at Hilo High School, was at the new gym Friday overseeing the vaccination operation. Safeway pharmacy was administering shots. She said most of the students at Hilo High have already gotten a shot at other clinics.

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“We just want to make sure our students are the healthiest they can be and being proactive by getting them the vaccination keeps them safer, in our opinion,” Urasaki told Big Island Now on Friday.

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Currently, Urasaki said, they have a good number of students that are coming on campus, adding she’s excited to get all students back in session next school year.

“It’s not just the vaccinations,” the principal added. “It’s making sure we follow all of our precautions, making sure we all wear masks, making sure we always sanitize our hands and if we are sick that we stay home. If we practice those procedures, it will be a healthier and safer campus, in addition to the vaccines.”

A vaccinated student population, Urasaki said, will bring everybody a little bit more ease.

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Stormi Kaleo brought her 15-year-old daughter, Shaynon, to receive a vaccine on Friday. Shaynon attends Waiākea High School.

“Our whole family has gotten vaccinated; she was the last,” Kaleo said. “We were waiting till the CDC cleared it (vaccine) for her age group.”

Kaleo said her reasons to vaccinate her ohana was not just for her, but to keep everybody else safe.

The pandemic has been hell for Kaleo’s family.

“There’s no such thing as normal — it’s the new normal. We don’t know how long it’s going to be like this,” Kaleo said.

Kaleo said the pandemic has been difficult on Shaynon.

“(For) Most kids, everything is about socializing and they need that in their lives to progress as life goes on,” Kaleo said.

After receiving her first shot, Shaynon waited in the observation area on the basketball court. She said she wanted to get vaccinated.

“I would like to go out, travel a little bit and go back to school because we’re the only high school that hasn’t gone back in person,” Shaynon said. “I miss being in person (at school), socially interacting with people. Distance learning has affected my grades and understanding (of) assignments.”

Hospital officials are excited that the HIDOE has moved forward with clinics at the schools. Hilo Medical Center spokesperson Elena Cabatu said it’s been heartwarming to see the schools, pharmacies and other clinics step up to take on vaccinating the youth.

“We have seen really good data with those 18 and older getting vaccinated,” Cabatu said, adding 787 individuals between the ages of 12 and 17 were vaccinated at HMC’s last mass clinic.

Kona Community Hospital spokesperson Judy Donovan said the HIDOE is the best vehicle to get students vaccinated as they’ll be able to kids on campus.

Over the course of KCH’s mass clinics, 175 keiki between the ages of 12 and 15 were vaccinated and 430 kids ages 16-17 received the COVID shot.

See below for a list of local clinics. HIDOE officials advise contacting schools directly to make an appointment. Students don’t have to attend the school where the clinic is being held.

Tiffany DeMasters
Tiffany DeMasters is a reporter for Big Island Now. Tiffany worked as the cops and courts reporter for West Hawaii Today from 2017 to 2019. She also contributed stories to Ke Ola Magazine and Honolulu Civil Beat.
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