Teacher vaccinations slowed by vaccine shortage, educators unsure about the process

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — Teachers and educators fall under group 1B in the Department of Health (DOH) vaccine breakdown. The DOH said, they are working diligently to get Department of Education (DOE) employees their shots but some teachers claim the process is unclear.

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“I’ve taken a lot of surveys,” Kalani High School teacher Brooke Nasser said. “But I haven’t received any information from the DOE about how to get it. And when I am allowed to get it.”

Nasser said, she did not understand why other teachers have gotten an email to register for the vaccine while she hadn’t.

Emi Fukuda, a kindergarten teacher at Pohakea Elementary in Ewa Beach, said she did get an email from Hawaii Pacific Health prompting her to schedule her shot but ran into some roadblocks when she tried to register.

“I wasn’t prepared that they were going to ask me for all the details about my health insurance because I thought it was supposed to be free,” Fukuda said. “I thought as long as I was certified as a teacher, we had to go through this whole certification process. And by the time I went back and dug up all the information they needed and went back online, all of the appointments have been taken.”

Fukuda said, she then called Kaiser to see if she could get in there.

“They were really nice but their earliest appointment was March 11,” she said.

DOH spokesperson Brooks Baehr said, the process to register for an appointment may vary for each hospital or provider offering the vaccine — some may require additional information including medical insurance.

Baehr said, the vaccine is free and also explained the way DOH determined which teachers should get the vaccine first.

“We’ve asked the DOE to give us lists of high-risk educators who we can get vaccinated early on in Phase 1B. These are people who maybe work in early childhood development, or in primary education, also people who work with students who have developmental disabilities, where it’s difficult for a teacher to distance themselves between the student,” Baehr said.

“We’ve given those names to our providers who are administering the vaccinations, asked them to reach out the individuals so they can schedule their appointment and get that very precious vaccine.”

In a statement, Hawaii Pacific Health Executive Vice President and Chief Quality Officer Dr. Melinda Ashton said:

“We will be providing vaccinations to teachers who have been identified by DOH in lists we’ve received. HPH has already invited more than 6,500 teachers to make appointments at Pier2, and many of those have scheduled appointments. In the next few weeks, we expect to invite more teachers and other essential workers to schedule their vaccinations, as we receive their information and additional vaccine supply.”

So how did many educators on Kauai get their vaccines as early as Monday, Jan. 11?

“Their population is smaller, it’s much more manageable. So they were able to work through their their long term care facilities and their health care professionals early on. And they got into phase one be much faster than those of us on a Oahu, where we have a much greater population,” Baehr explained.

Healthcare Association of Hawaii President Hilton Raethel said, the nationwide shortage of vaccines is affecting how quickly they are able to inoculate everyone.

“All the states are constrained. Right now if we had vaccine, we could probably administer twice as many doses a week as what we have vaccinated…It’s a shortage in terms of what we can administer. Right now our state is getting around 32,000 doses a week,” Raethel said.

Raethel explained the problem they are running into is that everyone needs two doses of the vaccine. Hospitals have to limit the number of people they are vaccinating to ensure people can get their second shot before giving others their first.

Baehr is asking everyone to be patient and assures the public that DOH is working to get all educators inoculated as quickly as they can.

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