5K on Kaua‘i vaccinated; kupuna struggle

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    Alvin Akimoto accepts a COVID-19 vaccine from Natalie Arriola of the Wilcox Medical Center Friday, the first day vaccines were available for kupuna ages 75 and older.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    Ed Torres of Wilcox Medical Center administers a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine to Gilmore Youn Friday, the first day vaccines were available for kupuna ages 75 and older.

LIHU‘E — Nearly 5,000 people have been vaccinated against COVID-19 on Kaua‘i, with the rollout for educators and some kupuna beginning last week.

Friday, Wilcox Medical Center had 140 appointments at its first clinic to vaccinate kupuna 75 and up. Nearly 800 more and caregivers are signed up to get their COVID-19 Pfizer vaccine this week at Wilcox clinics.

“We really want to be part of the solution,” said Faith Campbell, marketing manager at Wilcox. Campbell said she is hopeful that more appointment slots will be available as more vaccines arrive on island.

Wilcox is partnered with the state Department of Health on vaccine rollout. Kaua‘i Veterans Memorial Hospital in Waimea and Samuel Mahelona Memorial Hospital in Kapa‘a are also offering vaccination clinics for those 75 and older.

All three locations are providing the opportunity to also vaccinate a caregiver, whether that’s a partner, family member or another individual.

Gilmore Youn, retired Kapa‘a High School principal, got his vaccine Friday at Wilcox. Youn said he felt a little bit of dizziness upon his first dose and that a 15-minute wait time to monitor symptoms wasn’t too much of a wait.

“I don’t want to stay home anymore,” Youn said. “I’m very fortunate.”

Youn was able to sign up through Hawai‘i Pacific Health’s MyChart, which informed him early of the vaccine availability.

During the sign-in process, kupuna getting their first doses are able to schedule appointments for their second dose.

Kupuna 75 and up vaccination clinics are run by island hospitals, and registration is required. No walk-ins are available. The only way to register is through hospital websites, which are unable to provide support over the phone. However, the county’s Agency on Elderly Affairs is able to offer some support.

Don Liefer and his 82-year-old mother, Lora, do not have access to a computer.

The Liefers live off Social Security and can’t afford the internet’s $60 monthly subscription. Not only that, Liefer said the computer is foreign.

“People our age, it’s so difficult to figure out,” Liefer said. “You just can’t learn.”

When vaccine rollout for kupuna 75 and up launched last week, Liefer said he felt hopeless. He tried calling around to the hospitals, and one person suggested he ask other ‘ohana members or neighbors with computers for help.

“We’re still in a pandemic,” Liefer said as to why he didn’t want to approach neighbors in the first place. “I don’t have any ‘ohana left.”

Those having difficulty making appointments may call the county OEA at 241-4470.

To sign up for a vaccine at Wilcox Medical Center in Lihu‘e, visit wilcoxhealth.org/vaccine.

To sign up for a vaccine at KVMH or SMMH, visit kauai.hhsc.org.

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