A sense of hope came over 77-year-old Veronica Martin when she finally received a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine she’s been waiting for as the pandemic raged on for nearly a year.
“Oh, hallelujah,” the East Honolulu resident said after getting the shot at Pier 2, where Hawaii’s first mass vaccination clinic opened Monday. “This is a good thing. It’s better to have the vaccine than a ventilator. The more people who get vaccinated, the sooner this is over.”
Hawaii Pacific Health — parent company of Kapiolani Medical Center for Women & Children, Straub Medical Center, Pali Momi Medical Center and Wilcox Health on Kauai — rolled out immunizations to those 75 and older at Pier 2, as well as accompanying caregivers who opted to get a dose, and some health care workers.
But health officials are worried that there isn’t enough vaccine to sustain the huge demand. Nearly all of the 12,800 appointments for the large vaccination clinic are full through Jan 27, said Melinda Ashton, chief quality officer at Hawaii Pacific Health.
“And now we’re waiting to see what amount of vaccine will be made available for future appointments. It’s a very good thing, but it’s frustrating for us and it’s frustrating for others because we need a steady supply of vaccine,” she said. “We’re very concerned about the vaccine supply going forward. The only indication we’re getting so far is the Department of Health thinks we’re going to get less vaccine in Hawaii next week.”
By 4:30 p.m., with an hour left before closing, Hawaii Pacific Health had vaccinated more than 800 people. Another 1,500 are scheduled for today. The clinic currently does not take walk-in appointments.
Hawaii is dependent on the federal government’s Operation Warp Speed for its supply of vaccines and is not notified of how much it will get until days before delivery, the DOH said.
Makiki resident Chuck Reindollar, 76, was elated to be among the first at the large-scale clinic to get inoculated, describing it as “wonderful” and “totally painless.”
“I wanted this very badly. I was so happy to be able to come on the very first day and to be able to get an appointment. This is going to help us dramatically, I think, bring (the state) back to normal,” he said. “It’s certainly a comfort level with the effects it’s going to have of bringing down the possibility of getting COVID and certainly of giving COVID. I think that’s equally as big a part of it and why I’m so happy that I did it.”
Paula Carroll, 76, of East Honolulu described the clinic as an efficient, “smooth operation.”
“I wanted to be first in line. Kupunas, you know, we need it, so we’re thrilled,” she said. “I’ll obviously continue to wear my masks and do the right, safe things to do, but I feel safer at least by having had the vaccination.”
Mavis Taniguchi, 85, said getting vaccinated was “worth it.”
“I believe in it,” she said.
Her accompanying 65-year-old daughter, Corinne Shinn, who also received a dose, added, “We were very anxious and hopeful that it was coming out soon, so we’re glad that we took it. We’re waiting for the rest of our family to be able to get the vaccine as well so then that way as a family we can feel safer.”
The Department of Health reported 129 new coronavirus infections, bringing the state’s total since the start of the pandemic to 24,482 cases. The state’s official coronavirus-related death toll remains at 322, with no new deaths reported Monday. More than 56,000 individuals had been inoculated with at least one dose of the vaccine as of Friday, and 152,650 shots had been delivered in the islands, the DOH said.
Palolo Valley resident Ruth Silberstein, 78, who got vaccinated along with her 80-year-old husband, Miles, said she was initially frightened to come to the clinic because of her age, allergies, preexisting health conditions and potentially being exposed to a lot of people.
But she was pleasantly surprised with how well COVID-19 safety precautions were followed and how quickly the process went.
“I felt very safe, and I knew if anything happened, there would be someone there to help us,” said Silberstein, who has multiple conditions, including asthma, diabetes and high blood pressure and cholesterol.
“I was sick all my life. So I was quite concerned. I think a lot of people are, but we know it has to be done for the sake of everybody,” she added. “We do it to help ourselves and everyone else. I think we were blessed today.”
Hawaii Pacific Health patients can sign up for future appointments through the electronic medical record system known as MyChart. Nonpatients can fill out a form indicating interest at hawaiipacifichealth.org.
The Queen’s Medical Center, which will begin vaccinating residents 75 years old and older at the Neal Blaisdell Concert Hall on Monday, is taking appointments at covid.queens.org/vaccination or via phone at 691-2222.