Nearly 21% of Hawaii County’s total population vaccinated as of Thursday

  • Kelsey Walling/Tribune-Herald A Hawaii National Guard member gives Wendi Kimura the second dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine Saturday at Edith Kanakaole Multi-Purpose Stadium in Hilo.

After a slow start, Hawaii is one of the leading states in COVID-19 vaccinations.

Hawaii as of Thursday had the eighth-highest rate of administered doses per 100,000 people, according to the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.

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About 40,450 people per 100,000 have received at least one vaccine dose. That’s a total of 572,716 people, according to the CDC.

“This isn’t a race, we’re not in a competition, but it’s great to see that we’re doing alright numbers-wise,” said Brooks Baehr, spokesman for the state Department of Health. “We want to continue to work hard, so we can get better at this every day.”

Statewide, Hawaii has become more efficient at deploying vaccines, and each county is working to distribute the doses to vulnerable populations and essential workers under the state’s plan.

Hawaii County has 14% of state’s population that is 16-years-old and older, and to date has received 14% of the vaccine doses allocated statewide. As of Thursday, 63,721 doses have been administered, which comes to 20.9% of the county’s total population receiving at least one dose, according to the DOH.

“On the Big Island, travel and living in rural areas can be an issue for people needing to get the vaccine,” Baehr said. “So, to see that Hawaii County is up at almost 21% is fantastic.”

Each day, more and more people are getting vaccinated. The numbers are changing rapidly, so the data are not always up to date.

“Our goal is always getting shots in arms,” Baehr said. “We’ve nearly passed the quarter mark in the state, and the next quarter will be even quicker with the inclusion of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.”

The DOH hosted the first Big Island Johnson & Johnson POD, or point of distribution, on Tuesday and vaccinated about 850 people.

While the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are available through hospitals and private clinics, the state has not received enough Johnson & Johnson doses to distribute to other entities.

“Once we get more doses, we’ll try to make it available through more avenues,” Baehr said. “We just have to wait because we don’t know how much we’ll receive. However, vaccine allotments are increasing every week.”

This week, the state received 66,370 doses of the various vaccines and anticipates getting 68,710 doses next week.

With more doses coming in, the DOH has opened vaccination efforts to people in Phase 1C, which includes those 65 years and older, essential workers and people with three chronic medical conditions that include dialysis, severe respiratory disease and people undergoing chemotherapy or other infusion therapies.

“With more than 500,000 people, 1C is our hugest category,” Baehr said. “Since we don’t have enough doses right away, we want to focus on essential workers employed at hotels, restaurants and bars.”

While focusing on vaccinating people 65 years and older and people with certain medical conditions, the DOH also is making sure to concentrate efforts on people working at hotels, restaurants and bars, which have been drastically affected by the spread of COVID-19.

“In a systematic, surgical way, we want to address areas of vulnerability where we have seen the virus the most,” Baehr said. “We’re asking employees working in construction, transportation and other qualifying 1C trades to wait just a little longer for their shot.”

Meanwhile, the DOH is working to make the vaccination process as fast and efficient as possible.

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“I don’t want to forget that we’ve had some bumps in the road, but we’re learning as we go and hoping to improve every step of the way,” Baehr said. “We’ve never tried to vaccinate people this quickly, and there are 1.4 million people we need to protect.”

Email Kelsey Walling at kwalling@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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