Maui still behind on vaccine rollout

Coronavirus

KAHULUI (KHON2) — As the vaccination rollout continues statewide, the only island not accepting first dose registrations is Maui.

Lieutenant Governor Josh Green said Hawaii has received a total of roughly 189,000 doses of the vaccine with an average 36,000 doses arriving each week.

As of Friday, the state had administered roughly 94,000 shots.

Green said tens of thousands of second doses will be administered this week with thousands more qualified individuals receiving their first shots.

“We have to be careful. We’re just being professional about it, so that we don’t have, to the best of our ability, to cancel any scheduled appointments,” he explained. “And we’re always mindful if there’s a slight slowdown at the federal level, but we don’t see that happening.”

Lt. Gov. Green said no doses are going to waste and if people don’t show up for a scheduled appointment, they are calling people on the waitlist or giving doses to volunteers at the vaccination centers.

“We’re trying to get all the shots into people as soon as possible and evenly across the state,” he said.

State Health Director Dr. Libby Char explained that on Thursday, Jan. 28, the state finds out how much vaccine is being allocated by the federal government for the following week.

“So, once we see our allotment, we’re ordering all of it, and telling them to send it all to us, and it comes in the following week for our use,” she explained via Zoom during a Maui County press conference on Friday.

Dr. Char said Maui County is receiving an average of 4,000 weekly doses.

“It’s been fairly stable at about that rate going to Maui County,” she said during the Friday press conference. “We would love to be able to send as much vaccine as can be administered. Right now, we just don’t have that allocation from the federal government yet.”

Maui is currently not accepting registrations for the first dose at its two vaccination sites.

“I think, depending on how the allocation was made on Maui, they may have used a lot of the first and second doses for first doses and so now they’re using what’s coming in for second doses,” Dr. Char said.

“They were just a little bit overly optimistic. Great people on Maui and they’re doing an incredible effort, but they used all of their resource upfront, whereas others might have been a little bit more cautious, that’s all,” said Lt. Gov. Green.

Green says there is some leeway in regards to how much time passes between the two shots.

“If you get the Pfizer vaccine, you’re supposed to come back for the second shot 21 days later. You can get it as early as 17 days after the first shot, but you can also get it as long after the first shot as you’d like. It’s not going to compromise anybody’s immune response if they get it two weeks later, four weeks later or what have you,” he explained.

On Friday, Mayor Michael Victorino said they’re working on finishing second shots before they begin administrating first doses.

“They [Maui District Health Office] want to make sure we have enough doses that when we roll it out, we can have a consistent program, and not, you know like when we had it. We went real quickly and we did a lot, and then ran out,” Victorino explained of the delay in rolling out the program.

The Maui mayor said 16,000 people are on the wait list for the first dose.

“I would guess that they’re going to catch up, but we did go back and check. I mean, I asked the Department of Health. They’re very good about checking to make sure that no one’s getting shortchanged and it’s been pretty close to the mark. Maui could get a little bit more absolutely and we’re going to push for that,” Lt. Gov. Green said.

“Kauai got a little bit bigger percentage than their population merits by just a small margin, which was only a couple hundred vaccines,” he added.  

Over on Kauai, the vaccine rollout has been moving along smoothly.

“We have been able to move to additional groups a little bit ahead of some of the other counties,” explained District Health Officer Dr. Janet Berreman. “Just because of size, and also because we’ve taken this very systematic sort of one group at a time, and then bring in the next one, while we’re finishing up the last one.”

She said the hospital on Kauai is doing only one or two week appointments at a time until they know what the vaccine supply will look like.

Dr.Berreman adds that the only concern is getting as many people vaccinated as possible in case the more contagious strain reaches Hawaii’s shores.

“It’s not on Hawaii, as far as we know. But we know it’s in California, and most recently in Washington state on the west coast,” she said. “And there’s a lot of travel between the west coast and here. So, I do feel like we’re poised to give more vaccine as soon as we can get it and just fingers crossed that we start to get it soon.”

Green said vaccination sites in Waimea, Kona and Hilo are moving along well and each county is receiving an allocated amount based on population.

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