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Column: Kupuna wisdom: Take time to learn about, get vaccinations

Caroline Cadirao is director of the state’s Hawaii Executive Office on Aging (EOA).
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Caroline Cadirao is director of the state’s Hawaii Executive Office on Aging (EOA).

Marilyn Seely is on the Policy Advisory Board for Elder Affairs and a former EOA director.
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Swipe or click to see more

Marilyn Seely is on the Policy Advisory Board for Elder Affairs and a former EOA director.

Caroline Cadirao is director of the state’s Hawaii Executive Office on Aging (EOA).
Marilyn Seely is on the Policy Advisory Board for Elder Affairs and a former EOA director.

Kupuna were among the first to be vaccinated in Hawaii. We were grateful many willingly stepped aside to allow kupuna to receive the vaccine, while they patiently waited for their turn to be vaccinated. We were also honored that many received COVID-19 vaccinations out of concern about transmitting the disease to older adults, especially those who have pre-existing health conditions.

Now we can return the favor and express our concern for all those who willingly supported us.

There is no doubt a lot of misinformation is holding back Hawaii residents, both adults and those as young as 12 years old, from receiving vaccinations.

One belief is that the most severe reactions to COVID-19 infection affect only our state’s most vulnerable older adults. However, the reality is that the virus does not distinguish or target based on a person’s age, ethnicity or religion.

It is tragic when the life of a healthy person hangs in the balance because of COVID-19. It’s difficult to accept that someone once vibrant and full of energy can suddenly be affected by COVID for the rest of their lives.

Everyone has the right to make their own decision regarding vaccinations. However, that decision needs to be made on accurate information in order to make better decisions for themselves and their families. We know that there is a healthy skepticism about the vaccines.

Those who express these concerns may not consider themselves to be “anti-vaxxers” but are people with legitimate questions and concerns.

Some believe their risk of becoming infected is very low and may result in a mild case with flu-like symptoms. In addition, the fact that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized vaccines so rapidly makes them leery of getting vaccinated. They don’t want to risk being injected with something potentially hazardous to their health in the short- and long-term.

The science for the COVID-19 vaccine was based on decades of research; it was not something discovered last year. The Food and Drug Administration’s emergency use authorization process included every step to make sure that the COVID-19 vaccines are safe for people and prevent them from getting severe disease, being hospitalized, and dying from COVID-19.

We know that a small number of people may still get COVID-19 even after being vaccinated. So why bother to put yourself at risk of side effects from the vaccine? We know that those who are vaccinated for COVID-19 reduce their likelihood of developing severe symptoms that may require them to be admitted to a hospital to save their lives. Equally important is that the COVID-19 vaccines prevent transmission of the virus. This is especially important for our precious keiki who are not yet vaccinated.

Some people have received their first vaccination but do not return for their second vaccination because of the fear of potential side effects and of missing work. Side effects differ from person to person but are rarely severe or long-lasting. The risk of COVID-19 disease is far more severe, including keeping people out of work for weeks or months.

As kupuna, we urge all of you to make informed decisions about taking the vaccine. Because most people over 75 years old have been vaccinated, now more younger people are being infected and hospitalized with COVID-19 in Hawaii. It is not hard to see where the greatest risk lies. Don’t be a statistic in the war against a disease that is preventable. Let’s stop COVID-19 in its tracks now.


Caroline Cadirao is director of the state’s Hawaii Executive Office on Aging (EOA); Marilyn Seely is on the Policy Advisory Board for Elder Affairs and a former EOA director.


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