March 6, 2023

Have shots, will travel

Hawaii community vaccination team’s pop-up events bring COVID-19 and flu shots to the community.

Early in the pandemic, Kaiser Permanente began augmenting its vaccinations at medical facilities and mass vaccination events in Hawaii with pop-up clinics as part of its commitment to improving the health of its communities. The agile community outreach team members, sporting aqua Thrive T-shirts, took their mobile vaccination set-up to a wide range of settings in underserved neighborhoods and communities that might otherwise not have easy access to COVID-19 and flu shots due to geographic, cultural, or language barriers.

“We’ve seen so many families utilize these pop-up events,” noted Mae Lynne Swoboda, clinic administration manager at the Kaiser Permanente Center for Healthy Living. “It’s convenient. They don’t have to take time off from work or take their kids out of school to get their shots.”

Since 2021, Kaiser Permanente Hawaii’s dedicated community vaccination team has partnered with schools and community organizations at 577 pop-up events across the state to administer more than 25,000 COVID-19 vaccinations to members and nonmembers. The team also has given flu shots, and during the 2022-2023 flu season extended flu vaccination to nonmembers. 

The Hawaii community vaccination team takes a break at Aina Haina Elementary School on Oahu.

The Hawaii community vaccination team takes a break at Aina Haina Elementary School on Oahu. (L to R, front row: Mae Lynne Swoboda, clinic administration manager and Sean Masaki, RN; L to R, back row: Sheryl Visitacion, RN; Glenn Young, MD; Sandra Ikeda, management assistant; Donny Hamasaki, RN; Jeff Luis, RN.

Keeping the community safe

Members of the community naturally gather at school campuses, work sites, and ethnic, faith-based, trade, and community organizations. This is where Kaiser Permanente physicians, nurses, pharmacists, medical assistants, and administrative staff from all areas of the organization met with eligible individuals of all ages and backgrounds to answer questions, ease concerns, and administer vaccinations.

Strong partnerships and collaboration with trusted community organizations helped build vaccine confidence. “One gentleman told us that he took a 90-minute bus ride to the other side of the island simply because he trusted the group we partnered with,” said Swoboda.

Over time, multiple visits to easily accessible venues and friendly, compassionate face-to-face conversations convinced more people to get themselves and their family members protected. “We love seeing individuals, especially kids, who are at first hesitant, come back more confident for their booster or flu shot,” said Donny Hamasaki, a registered nurse, and Kaiser Permanente Healthworks coordinator.

“I may not have crossed paths with some of the physicians, pharmacists, nurses, medical assistants, and administrative support staff who volunteered for and supported our events, and now I feel like I’ve gained a second work family,” said Swoboda.

It’s not too late to protect yourself

It’s not too late for Kaiser Permanente members in Hawaii to receive their no-cost seasonal flu shot at Kaiser Permanente medical facilities. No appointments are necessary for flu vaccinations at the walk-in clinics. Members may also ask their care team for a flu shot at their in-person appointments. The vaccination schedule varies slightly by location and is subject to change, so members and employees are encouraged to visit for updates.