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Only half of Hawaii residents surveyed plan to take COVID-19 vaccine

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                                A woman wearing a mask walks near the Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children on Wednesday.


    A woman wearing a mask walks near the Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children on Wednesday.

Only half of the respondents in a recent Department of Health survey indicated they would take the COVID-19 vaccination, while about 24.4% said they were not likely to get immunized against the virus that has sickened nearly 25,500 Hawaii residents, killed 404 and ravaged the economy.

Another 25.5% said they were undecided.

The survey of 3,846 respondents was conducted Nov. 30 to Dec. 14 by Olomana Loomis ISC and New York-based Pathfinder — before the COVID-19 vaccine became widely available in Hawaii. A summary of the survey that was released Wednesday said “anecdotal evidence suggests that vaccine acceptance has increased since and will continue to increase over time.”

Separately, the DOH issued its weekly COVID vaccination update Wednesday showing that 106,654 doses had been administered statewide as of Sunday — an increase of 30,156 shots from the previous week. That total represents 62% of the 170,975 doses received from the federal government, which issues weekly vaccine allotments.

The weekly numbers have been quickly ramping since vaccinations were first offered the week of Dec. 14, when only 3,462 doses were administered.

DOH officials said the information gathered in the survey will help the agency focus its outreach efforts, especially in reaching ethnic minority groups and those with limited English proficiency.

Other survey points:

>> Oahu residents were more likely to get vaccinated the closer they live to urban Honolulu. On the neighbor islands, Kauai showed high levels of vaccine acceptance except in north shore communities; Maui had the lowest acceptance; and residents near Hilo were more likely to vaccinate than those living near Kailua-Kona.

>> Men age 65 and older who are in health care or education professions and have higher incomes were most likely to get vaccinated, while women between 18 and 34 years of age with lower income and no more than an associate’s degree were least likely.

>> African Americans, Hispanics, Native Hawaiians, Samoans and other Pacific Islanders were less likely to get the vaccine than those of Caucasian, Korean, Japanese and Chinese ancestry.

>> The “undecideds” who said they needed more information before deciding whether to get vaccinated were generally younger — under 45 and especially in the 18-to-24 cohort — and more likely to have less than $45,000 in annual household income and to have attained, at most, an associate’s degree.

>> A majority of respondents were not upbeat about life returning to normal in 2021, and “many believe mask wearing is here to stay.”

State Health Director Dr. Libby Char was unavailable Wednesday to elaborate on the survey findings, but in a statement said, “The results of this survey confirm what the Department of Health and our partners are hearing on the ground — that there is interest in Hawaii for the COVID-19 vaccination. As we continue expanding vaccinations to more communities, it’s reasonable to expect that many of those who are undecided will choose to be vaccinated as they see more of their friends, neighbors and fellow Hawaii residents receive their doses.”

The survey also touched on the state’s challenges with limited vaccine supplies from the federal government and the need to establish a priority system for administering the doses.

With more than 70% of respondents indicating they understand the need to prioritize available vaccines for those who are most at risk, the survey “affirmed that Hawaii residents understand and support the need to allow those with the greatest risk from COVID-19 to receive the vaccine first and that we have to wait our turn as the vaccine supply becomes available,” the DOH said.

The novel coronavirus in Hawaii is far from vanquished, however, with three new COVID-related deaths and 103 new infections announced Wednesday by DOH. The three deaths, all involving hospitalized patients with underlying health conditions, include two Oahu men, one age 50 to 59 and the other age 90 to 99, and a Maui man age 60 to 69.

Health officials also said there are 1,613 active cases, up one from the previous count. By island, Oahu has 1,191 active cases, Maui has 319, the Big Island has 95 and Kauai has eight, according to the state’s latest tally.

Of all the confirmed Hawaii infection cases, 1,673 have required hospitalization, with four new hospitalizations on Oahu.

According to the latest information from the department’s Hawaii COVID-19 Data dashboard, a total of 82 patients with the virus were in Hawaii hospitals as of Tuesday morning, with 21 in intensive care units and 18 on ventilators.

Today’s seven-day average case count for Oahu is 81 and the seven-day average positivity rate is 3.0%, according to Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi. To move to the more relaxed Tier 3 level of COVID-19 restrictions from the current Tier 2, the seven-day average of new cases must be below 50 on two consecutive Wednesdays and the seven-day average positivity rate must be below 2.5%.

In an interview Wednesday with the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s Spotlight Hawaii livestream video series, Blangiardi said that with the COVID numbers trending in the right direction, he hopes to be able to ease some restrictions perhaps in mid-February, especially for bars and youth sports.

Also Wednesday:

>> Gov. David Ige announced a pre-arrival testing program for travelers from South Korea starting Feb. 5. In order to bypass Hawaii’s mandatory 10-day quarantine, travelers must receive a negative COVID-19 test result from a “trusted testing partner” in South Korea, with the test taken no earlier than 72 hours prior to departure. The program is similar to rules already in effect for mainland and Japan arrivals.

>> The DOH delivered and administered COVID vaccines to residents and employees at the Kalaupapa Settlement in Kalawao County on Molokai this week. Dr. Glenn Wasserman, chief of the Communicable Disease and Public Health Nursing Division, and two public health nurses flew to Kalaupapa Airport on Monday, according to a news release.

They plan to return in four weeks to administer a second dose of the Moderna vaccine to those who received their initial inoculations.

Kalaupapa, a former home for Hansen’s disease patients who were once forced by the government to relocate there, registered its first COVID case in early December, which was contained without community transmission, DOH said in a news release. A small number of patients continue living on the remote peninsula with state care and support.

>> The DOH and Department of Human Services announced a partnership to provide in-home vaccinations for priority populations with independent pharmacies ElixRx Pharmacy, 5 Minute Pharmacy, Foodland Pharmacy, KTA Pharmacy, Pharmacare Hawaii, The Queen’s Medical Center Pharmacy and Times Pharmacy.

The agencies said in a news release the effort targets caregivers and residents in the nearly 1,700 small, licensed care homes across the state.

>> Diagnostic Laboratory Services Inc., one of the state’s “trusted testing partners,” has increased its COVID-19 testing capacity to 4,000 tests per day, up from 1,000. The move allows DLS to expand testing to most of its patient service centers across the islands and to open two dedicated COVID testing sites on Oahu for pre-travel, school and back-to-work testing, the company said in a news release. Testing is completed within 48 hours, with most being done within 24 hours.

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