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About 83K Hawaiʻi public school students aged 5-11 are now eligible for the vaccine

A student at Kalihi Uka Elementary School receives his first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for children aged 5 to 11. (Nov. 8, 2021)
Hawaiʻi Department of Education
A student at Kalihi Uka Elementary School receives their first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for children aged 5 to 11. (Nov. 8, 2021)

The rollout of COVID-19 vaccination clinics in Hawaiʻi public schools started slowly on Monday. The Department of Education said Kalihi Uka Elementary School hosted the first school-based clinic for students aged 5 to 11.

The Kalihi Uka clinic got underway at 8:30 a.m. with a group of first graders. About 60 students, or a quarter of the school’s eligible children, signed up. Parents need to sign consent forms for their children to be vaccinated.

More than 100 schools are registered to host vaccination clinics for that age group in the coming weeks, the department said. There are about 83,000 students in public schools who are newly eligible for the vaccine.

One of the largest brick and mortar charter schools, Kamaile Academy, plans to have its first clinic for students Friday. The school has about 1,000 students from pre-K through 12th grade.

During the pandemic, it has been a pacesetter from vaccination clinics to testing staff and students. Some 94% of teachers have been vaccinated.

Principal Paul Kepka said since the start of the 2021-2022 school year, the charter school saw 26 positive COVID-19 cases in its community.

"Like most schools, we had a lot more positive cases on campus earlier in the year. I think the schools are a representation of our community. As the community becomes healthier, our schools are healthier," Kepka said. "We've seen a significant decrease in active or positive cases on campus. And as a result, it's easier for teaching and learning here at the school."

While he doesn't know the exact numbers, he said around 30% of students aged 12 and over are vaccinated — which is not as high as he had hoped.

Kepka said several non-charter public schools in West Oʻahu’s plan to hold clinics over the next two weeks.

The clinics come about a week after U.S. health officials gave final approval to Pfizer’s COVID-19 shot for keiki aged 5 to 11.

Department of Health spokesman Brooks Baehr said the department hopes most of Hawaiʻi's 5- to 11-year-olds will get vaccinated in the next three weeks so they can be inoculated before the year-end holidays.

Other locations for keiki vaccinations are listed at hawaiicovid19.com. This interview aired on The Conversation on Nov. 8, 2021.

Catherine Cruz is the host of The Conversation. Originally from Guam, she spent more than 30 years at KITV, covering beats from government to education. Contact her at ccruz@hawaiipublicradio.org.
Sophia McCullough is a digital news producer. Contact her at news@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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