LIHU‘E — Vaccine distribution has started on Kaua‘i with the first supply arriving on island Monday afternoon, and Emergency Medicine Section Chief Dr. Spencer Smith was the first to receive a shot at Wilcox Medical Center yesterday.
A shipment of 1,950 Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines arrived at Wilcox for frontline health care workers at the hospital, along with Kaua‘i Medical Clinic and the Hawai‘i Health Systems Corporation’s Kaua‘i hospitals, Kaua‘i Veterans Memorial Hospital and Samuel Mahelona Memorial Hospital, according to a press release.
“The vaccine is an important tool in helping to stop the COVID-19 pandemic, protecting our community and restoring our economy,” Jen H. Chahanovich, president and CEO of Wilcox Medical Center and CEO of Kaua‘i Medical Clinic, said in the release. “However, this effort will take time, as the vaccine supply increases over the next several months and becomes available to more groups based on federal and state prioritization guidelines. We will need to continue other safety measures like wearing our masks and practicing physical distancing for the ongoing health and well-being of our community.”
Monday, immunization of frontline workers began, with vaccine clinics scheduled through next week. The first to get the vaccine will be health care workers and residents and staff of long-term care facilities, followed by first responders. Essential workers and those with chronic conditions and kupuna over 65 follow.
Also given the COVID-19 vaccine Monday at Wilcox were Respiratory Therapist Vanessa Kaahanui; Infectious Disease Physician and Vice Chief of Staff Heidi Hillesland, MD; Section Chief, OB-GYN and Chief of Staff Carol Fujiyoshi, MD; Supervisor Intensive Care Unit Michael Barroga; and Pharmacy Tech Benedick Baris.
“This is a historic day not only for Wilcox Medical Center and Kaua‘i Medical Clinic but also for the island of Kaua‘i,” Chahanovich said in a separate press release. “Keeping our health care workers and patients safe throughout this pandemic has been our top priority, and the vaccine is another layer of protection we are able to provide. We are proud to be able to make the vaccine available to our staff, and look forward to providing it to others in our community as more vaccine supply becomes available in the months ahead.”
Wilcox will store the vaccines for Kaua‘i in an ultra-cold freezer. Kaua‘i Veterans Memorial Hospital and Samuel Mahelona Memorial Hospital will start vaccinating Tuesday.
Hawai‘i Pacific Health requested about 5,600 initial vaccines. About 2,230 health care workers on O‘ahu with Hawai‘i Pacific Health have already received vaccines in the first shipment including Kapi‘olani Medical Center for Women and Children, Pali Momi Medical Center, Straub Medical Center and Hawai‘i Pacific Health Medical Group.
Vaccines, Mayor Derek Kawakami said Monday, are essential to achieving herd immunity with a goal to vaccinate 70% of the population.
“It is a massive national effort that is expected to take well into next year,” he said during his Monday COVID-19 update video. “So it remains important that we continue to keep our guard up and diligently wear our masks, maintain our distance, wash our hands often, keep shared surfaces sanitized and avoid large gatherings.”