Task force aims to build trust about vaccine among Native Hawaiians

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Updated: Dec. 15, 2020 at 6:06 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - State Rep. Lynn DeCoite plans to eventually get the COVID-19 vaccine because of her travel schedule.

“Personally, I have my reservations, but again I choose to trust in science,” she said.

She represents Molokai, Lanai and parts of Maui and believes half of the people in her district won’t get the vaccine because of lack of trust in government that goes back generations.

“Mostly in the Hawaiian communities especially in the older ones. They are reluctant. They are saying we are going to watch this. We want to see other people take it first,” said DeCoite.

“I’m worried for a lot of them that choose not to because they are making those trips to the mainland,” she added.

Dr. Nalani Blaisdell-Brennan is on the Native Hawaiian Pacific Island COVID-19 Task Force and says they’re working on a vaccine campaign with well-known watermen, Uncle Buffalo and Brian Keaulana.

“What we are trying to do is reach out to individuals who are leaders in halau, watermen, churches or other aspects in the community and get them to help us communicate,” said she said.

She added that they’re not only fighting a pandemic, but they’re also battling what’s called an “infodemic” of information overload.

“I’m not here to tell people what they can trust and what they can’t. I do hope that people will go to trusted people who they believe in with their heart and also people with accurate data,” said Dr. Blaisdell-Brennan.

Department of Health statistics show Native Hawaiians had 18% of the COVID-19 cases when they’re 21% of the population. Pacific Islanders had 26 percent of the cases, but are only 4% of the population.

“They have identified Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders as one of the highest risk groups and so they would be one of the first to be reached out to and vaccinated,” said Beth Giesting, director of Hawaii Budget and Policy Center.

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