The Department of Veterans Affairs Pacific Island Healthcare System is now offering vaccines to all veterans, as well as their spouses and live-in caregivers in Hawaii. Previously veterans aged 65 and up or holding jobs as essential workers were eligible.
Last month, President Joe Biden signed a bipartisan bill allowing the VA to expand vaccine eligibility to spouses and caregivers of disabled and elderly veterans.
VA spokeswoman Amy Rohlfs said that Hawaii was able to move forward beginning Wednesday, noting that some local veterans have declined to take the vaccine until they can get it with their families.
The VA’s Pacific Island Healthcare System is unique as it shares all of its facilities with other government agencies or works with clinics spread across the islands of Hawaii, as well as in American Samoa, Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas. Its headquarters is at Tripler Army Medical Center and it provides services at the Army hospital’s campus in the Sparks Matsunaga VA Medical Center.
To date the Pacific Island Healthcare System has vaccinated over 11,000 veterans and VA staff members. VA staff have administered vaccines at Tripler, been holding mass vaccination events for veterans in the community and have sent teams to rural corners of the Hawaiian Islands.
VA personnel have also assisted the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in administering vaccines to civilians in Americans Samoa. American Samoa has the highest enlistment rate per capita on any U.S. state or territory. Pacific Islanders as a whole serve in the U.S. military disproportionately compared to other demographics, with many recruits coming from intergenerational military families.
Veterans, spouses and caregivers can schedule appointments in Hawaii by calling 1-800-214-1306 and dialing 0. Upcoming mass vaccination for veterans in Hawaii include:
Spark Matsunaga Medical Center – ACC Vaccine Clinic starting Monday (Mon/ Weds/Fri)
Keehi Lagoon Memorial: Saturday, April 22, April 27, April 28
Hawaii Neighbor islands community clinics: (Kona – Saturday, Kauai–April 17, Hilo- April 24 , Maui-TBD)
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Kevin Knodell covers the military and veterans in Hawaii and the greater Pacific for Civil Beat as a corps member for Report For America, a national nonprofit that places journalists in local newsrooms.