Hawaii healthcare workers could get shots in the arm as early as Tuesday

As hospitals prepare for COVID vaccine shipments, state prepares distribution plan

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The state expects 81,000 thousand people to receive COVID-19 vaccinations by the end of the month, including health care workers, staff and patients in long-term care facilities, and first responders.

Among those doses, the Healthcare Association of Hawaii says hospitals are expecting around 25,000 vaccines, while 17,000 vaccines are expected to be delivered to long-term care facilities.

At the Hilo Medical Center, an operating room nurse spent part of her day Thursday showing off a freezer that can store more than 900 ice-packed Pfizer vaccine vials at ultra-low temperatures.

“It’s a freezer that can go down down to -80. It’s actually much lower than you would have in the freezer in your home, even the ones in a normal pharmacy,” said Dan Brinkman, CEO of East Hawaii Regional, which includes Hilo Medical Center.

With a major hurdle cleared today toward the FDA’s emergency approval of the Pfizer vaccine, Hawaii hospitals are expecting to get shipments on Sunday or Monday. Healthcare workers would then get shots in arms starting Tuesday or Wednesday.

The Moderna vaccine is expecting FDA approval next week Thursday. It would then go to long-term care facilities, with workers and patients starting to get shots by the end of December.

Hilo Medical Center says it doesn’t know how many vaccines it’ll receive in the shipments, and its CEO expects more than half the staff to get it right away.

“Some people are very excited and they’re like, sign me up. There are others who have understandable trepidation, that it came out really quick and all the politics certainly didn’t help,” said Brinkman.

“This is historic, because no one in our lifetime has gone through this type of a public health initiative,” added Hilton Raethel, the CEO of Healthcare Association of Hawaii.

Raethel says because of possible side effects like fever and chills, the shots will be given in waves.

“So not all the staff and not all the residents in a unit or a building would get vaccinated on the same day,” said Raethel.

Since the vaccine is under emergency use, hospitals and long-term care facilities are not mandating employees or patients receive it.

“We do encourage people to get it, but that’s a personal choice,” said Daniel Ross, Hawaii Nurses Association President and a nurse at the Queen’s Medical Center.

“I think the mood is cautiously optimistic. We don’t expect there to be a sudden change on anything. This is going to be a long process.” he added.

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