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Working toward COVID-19 vaccination equity in Hawaiʻi communities

Since July 2021, my colleagues and I have been working as COVID-19 Outreach Coordinators for HIPHI through a grant funded by Human Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). The purpose of this grant is to achieve COVID-19 vaccination equity among Hawaiʻi communities. From our experiences, increasing COVID-19 vaccination rates require team effort and collaboration with many different community organizations and health partners. In areas with low vaccination rates, we have found that it is important to build a relationship with the community and to have key community stakeholders involved.

Much of our work has been supporting community outreach events that provide COVID-19 vaccination and testing working in partnership with Project Vision. These fun-filled and family-oriented events are often held at a local school, church, shopping area or other common gathering place. It has been wonderful to see different organizations come together to work towards a common goal and purpose as well as seeing individuals and families come out to community events to get vaccinated and tested. On Oʻahu, our team has focused our efforts at events in Kahuku, Nānākuli, Waiʻanae, Wahiawā, and Kapolei. At these events, we have been able to provide educational materials as well as converse with unvaccinated individuals in line for COVID-19 testing. We also have been able to canvas in a few communities. We went door-to-door with the Hawaiʻi State Department of Health Public Health Nurses to answer any questions people may have had about vaccinations. 

Additionally, we have worked remotely to provide support to our community partner, Kaʻu Rural Health Community Association on Hawaiʻi Island. With their partnership, HIPHI has been able to support community education and vaccination drives. Outreach efforts have been made in Kaʻu, Naʻalehu, Ocean View, Hōnaunau, Captain Cook, and Kona.

 In the coming months, we hope to continue our efforts to increase vaccination rates in our targeted communities. Now that Pfizer has been approved for 5- to 11-year-olds, we hope to see more and more keiki come out to our events, along with people who need their booster shots! With recent news of the Omicron variant, we know our work is not done. We need everyone eligible to get vaccinated to protect our families, friends, and communities. As never-ending as it may feel, we must continue to act with safety and precaution. Continue to wear your mask, get tested when appropriate, and get vaccinated (and boosted) if you haven’t already. We must each do our part to protect our health and the health of our ʻohana and community!

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