When the COVID-19 vaccine first became available in Hawaiʻi, kūpuna aged 75 and older were one of the first groups eligible for vaccination as part of the state’s plan to minimize risk of severe COVID-19 infection and save as many lives as possible. Today, over 91 percent of kūpuna aged 75 and older have initiated vaccination across the state, with some counties reporting numbers over 98 percent. This is a testament to the unwavering commitment of our vaccine providers and community partners who worked tirelessly over the last six months to empower kūpuna with the support and resources needed to access the COVID-19 vaccine.

The Kūpuna Vaccination Outreach Group, a collective of over 60 community-based stakeholders, came together under the leadership of the City & County of Honolulu Elderly Affairs Division, Executive Office on Aging, and AARP Hawaiʻi (and the facilitation of Hawaiʻi Public Health Institute) to ensure equitable access to vaccination for all kūpuna regardless of geographic location, language proficiency, ethnic background, physical or cognitive abilities, and economic status. Partners worked together to stand up community-based vaccination clinics where kūpuna gather (e.g. senior housing properties, Adult Day Care/Health sites, community centers), increase awareness of vaccination supports by canvassing and conducting wellness checks, hosting information sessions, providing registration and appointment scheduling assistance, coordinating transportation, operating a Kūpuna Call Center line, and providing translation and interpretation services as needed.

While the majority of kūpuna have now been vaccinated as a result of these efforts, the Kūpuna Vaccination Outreach Group continues to strategize on how to ensure all remaining unvaccinated kūpuna have the chance to get vaccinated. The group is also exploring how lessons learned and emerging practices may be leveraged to ensure equitable access to the COVID-19 vaccine for other populations disproportionately affected by COVID-19 beyond kūpuna.

An After Action Report documenting the work of the Kūpuna Vaccination Outreach Group is anticipated for Summer 2021. To learn more about these efforts, contact Lindsey Ilagan, Kūpuna Program Manager at lindsey@hiphi.org. For kūpuna requiring assistance to get vaccinated, the Kūpuna Call Center is still available and can be reached by dialing 2-1-1.