Hawaii Department of Health Director Dr. Libby Char said she is optimistic about the roll out of the COVID-19 vaccine in Hawaii, which she said could begin to be administered by the end of this month. The vaccine will go first to frontline healthcare workers, and then to the elderly.
“Vaccination is our number one priority right now in the department. That’s going to make a huge difference in the course of this pandemic,” Char said this morning on Spotlight Hawaii.
“We’re hoping that by mid-2021 we get the entire community vaccinated, whoever wants to get vaccinated.”
To be effective and reach so-called “herd immunity” Char said at least 70% of the state will need to be vaccinated, with two shots spaced several weeks apart. Because the vaccine requires refrigeration at -70 degrees, the logistics of getting the vaccine out to the entire state are more challenging than a typical vaccine, like a flu shot. Char said the vaccine can be kept at the proper temperature in specialized shipping containers and dry ice for weeks at a time, so with proper planning rural parts of the state should be able to have access as well.
“We definitely have plans laid out to get the vaccine to the neighbor islands, to far reaches of the entire state to make sure that we have accessibility for everybody. And that’s a key part of the planning, because we want everybody to have access to these vaccines,” she said.
As immunity grows, Char said she is optimistic about allowing children to go back to school for in-person learning in the fall. But even with the vaccine, she expects mask wearing, social distancing and limits on gatherings to be part of life through much of next year.
“Everybody is so tired of hearing about masks and distancing and what not, but it works. We know it works. We have data showing that it works,” she said.
Char said that the state conducts a weekly survey to measure mask wearing, by visiting a highly trafficked areas where people are expected to be masked, for example shopping centers throughout the state. They typically county about 3,000 people in each survey and she said that mask wearing compliance has consistently been improving, and she encouraged the community to continue to stay vigilant.
“If we all do our part, we can get through this. We have the vaccine right around the corner.”
Watch the livestream video above.
Spotlight Hawaii, which shines a light on issues affecting Hawaii, airs live 10:30 a.m. every Monday, Wednesday and Friday on the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s Facebook page. Join Ryan Kalei Tsuji and Yunji de Nies this month for a conversation with guests. Click here to watch previous conversations.
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