Encouraging Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders to Get Vaccinated

Four men wearing masks stand in a line, arms thrown over each others shoulders

Photo Credit: Kaiser Permanente Hawaii

Hawaii health officials are seeing a decline in the number of residents getting vaccinated against COVID-19, with only 60,000 doses ordered the first week of May. According to the state’s Department of Health, nearly 30% of people ages 70 and older (those in the highest risk group) haven't received a single dose. As the age of residents now eligible for the vaccine goes down, the percentage of the population who haven't received one dose of a vaccine goes up.

Kaiser Permanente Hawaii is providing $400,000 in funding to increase COVID-19 vaccinations in Hawaii communities disproportionately affected by the pandemic. The health system is coordinating efforts with Hawaii Primary Care Association on Hawaii Island; Mālama I Ke Ola Health Center on Maui; and Kalihi Palama Health Center, Wahiawa Center for Community Health and Waimanalo Health Center on Oahu to get shots in the arms of more Native Hawaiians and Hawaii residents.

The multipronged campaign is part of Kaiser’s Safety Net Vaccine Equity Initiative developed to offer a health care system framework for the equitable administration of COVID-19 vaccines. The initiative’s goal is to ensure vaccination rates for eligible individuals within communities in the 25% most vulnerable geographies — defined by health equity indices, such as social vulnerability and neighborhood deprivation — meet or exceed the average vaccination rates in other communities.

To help meet the goal, Kaiser Permanente Hawaii is working with state and community groups to turn theaters and churches into vaccine sites in urban areas across the islands. Special Olympics Hawaii's athletes received a special invite to get their COVID-19 vaccination at the Consolidated Theatres at Kapolei vaccination site.

Elementary school campuses, such as Kamehameha Schools Kapālama Campus, are providing COVID-19 vaccinations to students boarding on campus. High schools located in beach towns such as Kailua are vaccinating surfers.

The health system got really creative by using Earth Day to encourage people to get their shots. Through colorful social media banners and handouts, Hawaiians were reminded of how the pandemic has kept so many residents indoors and that the vaccine can get them outside in nature again safely to enjoy the positive impact it has on mind, body and spirit, which they’ve been missing for so long.

Andrew Giles, Kaiser Permanente Hawaii's assistant hospital administrator, spent the day walking a team from Hawaii News Now, one of the island’s leading television news stations, through the COVID-19 vaccination experience. Giles talked with the reporter about what to expect before, during and after getting vaccinated. It’s one more way Kaiser Permanente Hawaii is helping build confidence and trust in the vaccines.