Officials used the terms “ramp up” and “ramping up” several times Tuesday while describing the state’s rollout of coronavirus vaccinations, but cautioned that the operation likely won’t proceed quickly.
“We are in a situation where demand far exceeds supply, so I want to encourage everyone to be patient as the vaccine rolls out,” said Gov. David Ige during a news conference. “We are excited that many in our community want to get vaccinated, and we are doing all that we can to get people vaccinated as quickly as possible.”
Lt. Gov. Josh Green, an emergency room physician at Kohala Hospital, said the state received 59,000 doses of the vaccine last week from the federal government, but expects only about 32,000 doses this week.
“We can’t promise, but we’re hopeful that by the end of February, if things keep going OK and (we) keep getting enough vaccine from the federal government, we’ll get to all the people” in the top-priority categories, Green said.
Those categories include health care workers, long-term care facility residents, people 75 and older, teachers and other front-line essential workers.
“We don’t always get as much (vaccine) as we would like, but we will, over time, vaccinate everybody,” Green said. “We’re committed to safety. And this is the way to restore life, in some ways, back to normal.”
Noting there was a spike in new cases statewide after the Christmas and New Year holidays, Green said Hawaii is in “a very good place as a state — best state in the country at the moment.”
“We have the lowest case rate per 100,000 (population) in the United States,” he said. “… We’ve also had the lowest death rate per 100,000 across the U.S. throughout the whole pandemic.”
During the past seven days, the state averaged 122.3 new daily cases and had a test positivity rate of 2.54%. The Big Island’s numbers were even better, with an average of 8.3 daily cases and a 1.3% positivity rate.
Health Director Dr. Libby Char said it’s difficult to plan for vaccinations because the federal government has been notifying the state every Thursday of its allocation for the following week. She said the federal government is distributing vaccines to each state in accordance with their share of the U.S. population.
“We’re making sure that every county is getting an appropriate amount of vaccine,” Char said.
Char said officials are “trying really hard to get vaccine to the priority populations — and we’re seeing the hospitals ramping up, the clinics are ramping up.”
She added the caveat that the state still receives “a very limited supply” of vaccine on a weekly basis, and urged people to continue wearing masks, stay socially distanced and limit social gatherings to five people.
“We ask the public to allow our kupuna to get vaccinated. In the clinics that we have set up, we allow for the public’s patience in allowing the front-line workers to get vaccinated,” Char said. “We expect fully to get vaccines to everybody. It’s just a matter of time. And we absolutely intend to get everybody vaccinated who wants to be vaccinated.”
On Hawaii Island, Hilo Medical Center and North Hawaii Community Hospital are offering vaccine registrations to individuals 75 and older. Visit their websites at HiloMedicalCenter.org and queens.org/north-hawaii/north-hawaii-community-hospital to register or for more information.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
Email John Burnett at email@example.com.