Hawaii’s first doses of COVID-19 vaccine administered to five frontline caregivers

Local News

HONOLULU (KHON2) — The first COVID-19 vaccine received in the state of Hawaii was administered at Queen’s Medical Center.

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The medical center received 975 doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine on Monday, Dec. 14. On Tuesday, five volunteers within the Queen’s Health Systems got the first doses of the vaccine.

Among the five was Dr. Lester Morehead, a hospitalist at Queen’s who works in the COVID-19 unit. He was the first person in the state to receive Pfizer’s vaccine.

Dr. Morehead sat down at a table, raised his sleeve and was given the first dose in his upper arm.
When asked how he feels about being the first in the state to receive the dose, the hospitalist responded “I’m honored, I want others to get it too.”

“I trust the science, I believe in the science. We need to end this (COVID-19) and this is the best way to do it,” Morehead said.

Following Dr. Morehead was Debra Lichota, a registered nurse (RN) from the hospital’s medical intensive care unit.

A respiratory therapist, housekeeping aid, and RN Charlene Pang got vaccinated shortly after.

“These (COVID-19) patients come in and they’re very, very sick, some of them can’t breathe and we’re on the frontline, on the bedside trying to help them get better,” Pang shared. “And some of them don’t (get better), some of them die. It’s exhausting. It’s tiring. There’s so many emotions. It’s overwhelming.”

“By taking this vaccine, I’m hoping we do see a light at the end of the tunnel and that we overcome this pandemic,” she added.

This is the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine and they’ll be monitoring for any side effects.

“I think because this is under emergency use authorization that everything is going to be tightly controlled and they want to know all the symptoms. It’s part of getting the full FDA approval,” said Jason Chang, President of the Queen’s Medical Center.

Getting vaccinated is optional. We’re told a survey among employees showed about 70% were interested in the vaccine.

“When we went out and actually spoke to people that may be a little worried, they just didn’t want to get it on the first day but were happy to get it in week two,” he said.

In a press release, the state said they still don’t know whether a person who has been vaccinated can carry the virus and infect others. So officials are urging the public to continue wearing face masks and social distance.

“This is still a journey. We are still in the middle of the battle. It may take us many months to get everyone vaccinated,” said President of the Queen’s Health Systems Jill Hoggard Green.

To view a fact sheet about the Pfizer vaccine from the FDA, click here.

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