LIHU‘E — Kupuna over 75 who have not received a COVID-19 vaccine have an opportunity Friday at Hawai‘i Health Systems Corporation’s Kaua‘i Veterans Memorial Hospital in Waimea and Samuel Mahelona Memorial Hospital in Kapa‘a.
Both hospitals have over 100 appointment slots open for Jan. 29, according to an HHSC Kaua‘i Region flyer posted Monday.
Kupuna over 75 can sign up for their appointments, and kupuna ages 65 and older can sign up to be put on a waitlist.
“If you are under the age of 75 and have requested an appointment, please note that we have put you on our waitlist,” said Jackie Kanna, external communication and marketing spokesperson for HHSC.
“We will call you back in the order your request was received when we open up the next group.”
Daily, staff return calls to those over 75 who have submitted requests.
Starting this week, kupuna caregivers will no longer be offered the vaccine, which is in line with a statewide announcement last week.
Walk-in appointments will not be accepted for vaccine distribution. Online requests only need to be submitted once at kauai.hhsc.org. Those experiencing difficulties can contact the county’s Office of Elderly Affairs at 241-4470.
“The office can help you sign up on the website, but they can’t change where you are in line,” Mayor Derek Kawakami said Monday.
Kaua‘i has become an example of health equity and expanding outreach services, said state Department of Health Deputy Director Cathy Ross during a joint information briefing between the state Senate’s Committee on Health and state House’s Committee on Pandemic and Disaster Preparedness.
Recognizing the language barriers within the agriculture-laboring community, the department mobilized outreach utilizing bilingual health workers and public-health nurses on Kaua‘i.
“When we reached out to agriculture workers, we realized many had language barriers that made registering online very difficult, especially in a first-come, first-serve situation,” Ross explained.
“Unfortunately, these first-come, first-serve situations that use technology often leave the people that really should be closer to the front of the line closer to the back, if they’re in line at all.”
It didn’t stop there, Ross said, “We did outreach to these agriculture workers so that we could understand their needs, the limitations of their working environment, and allow them to be able to (get vaccinated).”
Agriculture workers are part of phase 1B, which includes those who are in positions that provide essential services who cannot work remotely, like first responders, educators and school staff, and those working at grocery stores and as farmers. Phase 1A included health-care personnel and those in long-term-care facilities.
“If we didn’t do this outreach effort, which takes a little bit more time and effort, there’s a good chance these important agricultural members may never have been able to register as part of 1B,” Ross said. “We want to minimize that happening.”
About 8,799 people on Kaua‘i have received a vaccine, out of the state’s approximately 109,808, said state DOH Acting Epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Kemble.
Those numbers include both those getting their first and second dosages of either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines.
As of Monday, the state has received about 203,600 doses in all.
Weekly, the number of vials changes. For example, the first week available, the state got 4,875, and in the second week of January, the state received 55,750. The week of Jan. 24, the state had received 32,625.
DOH Director Dr. Elizabeth Char estimated that, should supplies increase as the federal government has anticipated, those who wish to get vaccinated could have their immunity by the fall.
“We want to make sure that those who really need the vaccine are getting it,” Char said. “If we can get a little bit more vaccine we can probably get just about everybody who wants a vaccine vaccinated probably into August or September.”
But if the numbers remain the same, Char said it’ll take longer.
The state has the ability to administer between 60,000 to 70,000 doses per week. Each island is at different phases of release, with about 200,000 people in phase 1B.
Kaua‘i has about 5% of the state’s population over the age of 16, or around 58,308 people.
Kemble reported that about 8% of those available to receive the vaccine have received it on Kaua‘i.
A little over 18,000 people in the state have gotten their second doses, mostly health-care personnel and those in long-term-care facilities.
“The primary challenge here is vaccine supply that we hope will improve in the near future. But we know right now we need to maintain a more structured approach right now,” said Danette Wong Tomiyasu, DOH deputy director of health resources.
Char said the state has an inadequate supply for the current demand. A survey shows more than half of survey respondents want to receive the vaccine when it’s their spot in line.
“I’m happy with where we are now,” Char said. “It’ll never be 100% because we can’t administer what we don‘t have.”
Sabrina Bodon, public safety and government reporter, can be reached at 245-0441 or email@example.com. Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or firstname.lastname@example.org, and contributed to this report.