Coronavirus vaccines help reduce hospitalizations but demand is falling short


HONOLULU (KHON2) — Health officials statewide are seeing more vaccine supply than demand, and appointments are going unfilled.

Health officials on Kauai are urging residents who would like to get vaccinated to get their first dose before the end of April.

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The vaccine clinic in Lihue will stop administering first doses at the end of April due to a decline in demand.

Kauai officials said first doses will only be available through hospital and pharmacy clinic locations for the month of May. The Health Department (DOH) clinic will continue to provide second doses to those who received first doses in April.

“We’re not at all stopping vaccinating, in fact, we are continuing to very strongly encourage everybody to be vaccinated,” explained Kauai district health officer Dr. Janet Berreman.

She said the Lihue Convention Hall is going to run through Thursday, April 29, three days a week as it has been and then will run once a week for the month of May, which will be for second dose appointments only.

“So the first thing is, if that’s the most convenient spot for you to be vaccinated, go online and make an appointment now because there are plenty of appointments for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday next week,” she explained.

Nearly 60% of residents on Kauai who are 18 and older have received at least one vaccine dose, but a jump in COVID-19 cases has occurred and cases of the contagious California variant have been identified.

“We have had an uptick in cases, and the thing that concerns me the most is we’ve had a couple of cases that were community-acquired, so they were not travel-related, and that’s really the first time since the beginning of this year that we’ve seen that and that puts us at risk,” Dr. Berreman explained.

“We’ve also seen the California variant, the B.1.429 variant which is more transmissible, so we know that this is a time of significant risk on Kauai, which makes it extra important for people to be vaccinated because the vaccine really does protect even against the variant. It’s not 100%, but it’s the single strongest thing that people can do,” she continued.

The California variant now counts for 82% of Maui’s cases, according to the DOH. The DOH’s latest cluster report shows 154 cases on the Valley Isle tied to travel, lodging and tourism, but officials said the virus is spreading due to gatherings and young people going to the hospital.

“I know there’s patients right now at Maui Memorial who are young, strong, healthy, but very sick,” said Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino. “Had they got the vaccine, maybe not.”

Maui Health Systems said they are doing about 800 vaccinations a day at the hospital and vaccinating 400 more people each day in Wailea.

“We’re starting to see a few open slots now on our appointments,” explained Maui Health System CEO Michael Rembis. “It is slowing down, especially for next week, so we really encourage people who have not made an appointment to please do so, we have the capacity. We are here waiting to give you a shot in the arm and protect you.”

He said Maui County is averaging 4,000 to 5,000 shots every week.

Lt. Gov.r Dr. Josh Green visited Maui on Thursday and helped vaccinate younger people on the island. He believes some of the push has come from the Safe Travels pass program being announced.

“It’s extraordinary to see younger people now coming to get the vaccine,” he said. “There’s no question that that is a trend that was very visible downstairs in the entryway, they have a great setup.”

He believes the state will see a 10% to 15% boost in people who did not get the vaccine the first time around, whether they fell into the kupuna or essential worker category.

“We don’t mean to disadvantage anybody you can still do Safe travels, but this is one more way to return to normal,” said Green. “And I think that of those people that didn’t get vaccinated, maybe 10% of them will revisit this decision, and it’s important because getting to herd immunity means getting up well over 75% for the whole state, it would be better if we get to 80% plus, and that can be the difference.”

Lt. Gov. Green also spoke with nurses and doctors who had been caring for people in their 40s and 50s at the hospital who have COVID-10.

“So we need to get young people vaccinated, we are not totally out of the woods yet,” Green said. “You can get very sick if you’re young from COVID, so please get vaccinated.”

Rembis said, it was critical for people on Maui to get vaccinated as the California variant continues to spread across the island.

“This is critical, there is nothing more meaningful right now than us vaccinating the community. Everyone I think has an obligation to seriously consider being vaccinated it is important. It’s going to make a difference, and the sooner we can get people vaccinated, the better it is for the community,” he said.

Mayor Victorino said he would like to see more people get vaccinated.

“I want to see more I want to hear more,” he said on Thursday. “The longer they take to get to herd immunity, the longer it takes us to do what we need to do as a county, and as a state, and I think the lieutenant governor will agree with that.”

“Mayor Victorino has really been encouraging people to get vaccinated not just for themselves, but for their families, their extended community, and that’s been amazing,” Lt. Gov. Green said.

The island of Lanai could be the first island to reach herd immunity by the end of April.

“I’m excited this weekend, I think we’ll get pretty much all of it done,” said Victorino. “Once we get it done, it’d be nice to have one island that has herd immunity, and hopefully, we’ll move to Molokai, Hana, and other small rural districts.”

“By getting to herd immunity in a smaller community like Lanai, we will learn what it looks like as we return to normal, what it looks like as we begin to peel away some of the other requirements,” explained Green. “So, we’re not telling people to stop wearing masks by any means. But we will begin to see what normal looks like again, and so we’ll see it there and on Molokai.”

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