Hawaii DOH boosts coronavirus vaccine efforts to reach unvaccinated residents

Local News

HONOLULU (KHON2) — Hawaii House and Senate committees met with Department of Health officials on Friday, July 9, in a virtual meeting focused on how Hawaii is performing in terms of vaccine distribution and efficiency.

Thursday’s coronavirus case count reported 75 new cases and one new death, bringing the state’s total since the pandemic began to 38,196 and the death count to 519. As of June 7, 65% of Hawaii residents received at least one vaccination and 58.1% are fully vaccinated.

State DOH Director Dr. Elizabeth Char said Hawaii still needs about 169,000 more people to get fully vaccinated to reach 70%, a benchmark Gov. David Ige set in place as a requirement for the state to drop all COVID-19 restrictions.

The DOH said it would take up to nine more weeks to reach Gov. Ige’s vaccination goal of 70% if 20,000 people continue to get vaccinated per week. The biggest challenges so far include education and access.

“We’ve broken down these zip code areas in lighter colors by language so we can see what percent is speaking different languages and some of the access issues and how well they align with pharmacies or community health center locations,” said Dr. Sarah Kemble, acting state epidemiologist.

“We tried to translate the materials that we have into 12 different languages,” said Dr. Libby Char, DOH director.

DOH officials said they are also working on more question and answer sessions, social media engagement, and ads as their latest effort to reach unvaccinated residents.

“We’ve been doing more outreach and more mobile vaccine teams to go into those areas to see if we need more pop-up vaccine sites.” Maybe we need to vary the hours so it’s more convenient for people before after work and on the weekends,” said Dr. Char.

This also comes as concerns grow over the new lambda variant that is taking over portions of South America.

“I don’t not believe we have identified lambda in the state of Hawaii as of now but it’s one that we have our eyes on closely. Anytime we see any new mutations collecting in a new variant, that is a great concern because that’s an opportunity for the virus to do something that we’re not used to,” said Dr. Kemble.

With more push, the DOH hopes to reach the last leg of unvaccinated residents.

There are studies being done on the need for booster shots for the COVID-19 vaccine, but the DOH has not heard any updates on if and when it will be required.

View full Senate and Department of Health hearing above.

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