New partnership makes it easier for restaurants to vaccinate their employees

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The Hawaii Restaurant Association (HRA) is teaming up with Hawaii Medical Assurance Association (HMAA) to ensure all restaurant employees can get vaccinated in light of an ongoing hepatitis A outbreak.

One-hundred-thirty-five cases have been confirmed as of Aug. 3, and are largely focused on Oahu. Seven individuals now live on the islands of Hawaii, Kauai, and Maui, and one visitor has returned to the mainland.

The Hawaii Department of Health have been releasing a list of restaurants and food service businesses where employees were diagnosed with hepatitis A.

Health officials say there is no indication these businesses are sources of this outbreak and the likelihood that patrons will become infected is very low. However, customers were notified out of an abundance of caution and urged to contact their healthcare provider for advice and possible preventive care.

“If I was a restaurant operator at this point, and I have been. I’ve been a manager, I’ve been an owner, and in talking to my staff, I would say what would happen if our restaurant ended up on the news tonight or tomorrow? It would greatly impact not only the income of the restaurant, but your personal income, so we want to do what we can to avoid that,” said Gregg Fraser, HRA executive director.

Any business, not just those in the food service industry, can now contact HMAA to set up hepatitis A vaccination clinics for their employees for free with a minimum of 15 participants. A $50 fee applies for businesses with fewer than 15 participants.

“We do all of the back work as far as the prescriptions, so we contact the employer and once the consent forms are filled out, we will contact all of their doctors to get the prescriptions that are needed in order for the vaccination. The vaccination is in two doses, six months apart, so we partner with pharmacies, bring them to the work site, do one vaccination clinic and then six months later, the pharmacy will come back to give the second dose of the vaccine,” explained Amy Kohler, HMAA registered nurse.

Coverage of the actual vaccination would depend on the insurance company for that business.

“The vaccination is about $95 to $100 and HMAA covers the vaccination at 100 percent. For any other insurer, we ask that you contact your insurance provider to see what the coverage is and go from there,” Kohler said.

Businesses can email HMAAwellness@hmaa.com for more information.

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