Honolulu’s first responders began getting vaccinated for COVID-19 today, after months of treating infectious coronavirus patients.
Paramedic Shirley Ann Cazinha, stationed at the Waialua unit, has lived in fear of bringing the virus home to her family and said she chose to get immunized so she can spend more time with her ailing mother.
“Many of us don’t see our own families because they’re afraid of what we might be carrying. It’s heartbreaking for us not to be with our families. I can’t hug my mom. I can’t even see my mom,” Cazinha said at a news conference today. “This vaccine is a light in this darkness of COVID for all of us. For us first responders, we can re-bond with our families again … and not fear that I’m going to make my own family sick while I try and take care of everyone else.”
Oahu has roughly 4,500 first responders and more than 135 Honolulu Emergency Medical Services employees have so far signed up for the shot. Honolulu EMS has treated more than 600 coronavirus patients.
Honolulu Police Chief Susan Ballard said she was “kind of on the fence” about taking the vaccine, but after researching the scientific studies she was able to make an informed decision and be an example for the community.
“It’s a personal choice for everybody whether they take the vaccine or they don’t take the vaccine. I’m one of those people who need to do plenty of research … before I make a decision. I have decided to take the shot,” she said before getting her first dose. A second dose will need to be taken at least 21 days later. “If it means by me taking this vaccine … that other people are willing to step up and may have some second thoughts about it so that we can make our island safe, then I’m there to do it.”
Honolulu Fire Department fire chief Manuel Neves added that everyone must do their part to end the pandemic.
“It’s not like a light switch that’s going to turn this virus off and on,” he said. “We all got to do … little steps and this is one major step for us as a community to move forward.”
Meanwhile, Lt. Gov. Josh Green, an emergency room doctor on the Big Island, also received his first shot at The Queen’s Medical Center, after contracting the virus in September and developing mild-to-moderate symptoms.
“I think we should lead by example and I believe that this is really going to make a big difference for our state,” he said at a separate news conference.
Hawaii health officials reported 66 new coronavirus infections statewide, bringing the total since the start of the pandemic to 20,417 cases. The state’s official COVID-19 death toll remains at 282 with no new deaths reported. Of the state’s total infection count, 1,700 cases are considered to be active.
Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell said the city’s goal is to vaccinate as many first responder “heroes” as possible.
“They need to take care of themselves so they can take care of us and they’ve been taking care of us through the worst health crisis in 100 years,” he said, imploring all residents to get the vaccine once it becomes available to the general public. “It’ll protect you, it’ll protect your family and it allows our community to return to a new normal.”