As more vaccines arrive, urgency grows to educate the public

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — The state received more than 3,000 doses of the coronavirus vaccine on Wednesday, Dec. 16. They were distributed to various hospitals across the state will be used to vaccinate employees and other health care workers in the community.

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The Hawaii Department of Health (DOH) also requested an additional 7,800 doses which are expected to arrive next week. The urgency is growing to make sure there are enough people willing to take the vaccines as more shipments come in.

According to a survey, health officials say less than half of the general public are willing to take the vaccine. The goal is to get 70% of the population vaccinated to get herd immunity.

“So we have a lot of work to do, in terms of communication in the next few months,” said Dr. Sandra Chang.

She is a faculty member at the John A. Burns School of Medicine, which is working with the DOH to let the public know that the vaccine is safe and efficient. She says there is likely no point in reaching out to those who have already made up their mind against the vaccine.

“Our goal is maybe address more of what we call vaccine hesitant, people who are unsure and haven’t really decided if they’re gonna get vaccinated or not,” said Chang.

Hawaii is still a few months out from having enough of the vaccine for all of the general public. The work has been going on to make sure the right information is getting out, especially to those considered high risk groups such as Native Hawaiians, Pacific Islanders and Filipinos. Getting past various language barriers also must be taken into account.

“The big challenge from a communications perspective is that our translations take time. In Hawaii, we translate in 16 languages, which is really extraordinary,” said CJ Johnson from the DOH COVID-19 Community Outreach.

Officials point out that community leaders, pastors and healthcare workers are now at the frontline in relaying accurate information.

“Even hula halaus, talking to kumu hula and trying to get them to understand and communicate to their students that this is something that is worthwhile doing,” said Chang.

The biggest enemy is misinformation, which is readily available through social media and other outlets.

“Misinformation takes root when sources of information that are credible don’t have answers. So our goal is to make sure that the folks that the people turn to for information have answers,” said Johnson.

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