CDC team coming to Oahu to assess low vaccination rate in Leeward Oahu to better understand factors in vaccination resistance

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — According to the Hawaii Department of Health, within the last two weeks, Waianae saw 129 COVID-19 cases, the highest of any area on Oahu. Now, the only health care facility that directly serves the Leeward Coast is feeling the impact.

“We’ve never seen so many sick patients with COVID-19 before,” said Jacob Schafer, Waianae Coast Comprehensive Health Center Director of Infection Control and an epidemiologist. “We have record numbers. Record case positivity rates, even people with COVID-19 in our emergency department is three times the amount we’ve ever seen before.”

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This is the new reality for the Waianae Coast Comprehensive Health Center (WCCHC).

“The capacity, the open beds is getting less and less, which is why we’re urging people that it’s so important to help stop the spread now before we fill up,” Schafer said.

What’s happening at the facility only tells part of what’s going on in the community.

“So there’s probably well over 1,000 active cases just in the Waianae zip code alone,” Schafer said.

Waianae has one of the lowest vaccination rates on Oahu, at less than 35 percent. It’s so low the CDC will be sending a member of their Vaccine Confidence and Demand Team to the area next week to work with the health department and WCCHC to better understand factors impacting vaccine confidence, specifically Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander peoples.

“They’re coming out,” said Schafer. “We’re conducting what’s called an RCA or rapid community assessment of some of these groups to really dig into what is their understanding of the vaccine, their motivations or perceptions of it. That way, we can hopefully target some really specific intervention activities.”

Amid growing numbers, the Waianae Coast Comprehensive Health Center is expanding contact tracing efforts to get ahead of the spread.

Gov. David Ige says his administration is working with the health care industry to keep hospitalization numbers under control. However, for many in healthcare, the solution is simple.

“About 95 and 98% of these hospitalizations are unvaccinated and are entirely preventable,” said Hilton Raethel, president and CEO of the Healthcare Association of Hawaii. “So it’s concerning that we’re even having these discussions about need to scale back elective surgeries and other things when we could avoid that if we if get more people vaccinated.”

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