On ‘momentous’ day, state’s first COVID-19 vaccines administered to local healthcare workers

Updated: Dec. 16, 2020 at 6:34 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - A doctor who’s witnessed firsthand the pain COVID-19 has inflicted on hundreds of Hawaii families was given a dose of hope Tuesday: the first coronavirus vaccine administered in the state.

Dr. Lester Morehead works in the COVID unit at the Queen’s Medical Center. He volunteered to get the shot. He was asked afterwards how he felt.

“I’m honored,” said Morehead. “I want others to get it. My biggest fear is people won’t get the vaccine.”

The doctor was one of five frontline caregivers from Queen’s Punchbowl to receive the immunization this morning -- including a housekeeping aid, two nurses and a respiratory therapist.

The shots mark the official start of what’s expected to be a multi-month vaccination campaign in the islands.

ICU nurse Deborah Lichota also encouraged the public to get immunized as she described what work has been like over the course of the pandemic.

“It has been very exhausting and challenging on numerous levels because we as nurses want to save and protect lives,” she explained with tears in her eyes. “There have been times when we are at our patients’ bedsides holding their hands when it should be their families.”

The President of Queen’s Health System said when the hospital received its first tray of vaccines Monday she cried tears of joy.

“We have seen far to much suffering and pain,” said Jill Hoggard Green. “This gives us a chance to move ahead and get on the offense instead of battling this disease from behind.”

Healthcare officials say Hawaii’s slated to receive a total of 81,000 doses of the vaccine this month. Enough to immunize every healthcare worker in the state.

Today the President of the Queen’s Medical Center confirmed it’s secured a total of four subzero freezers. An asset that will play a critical role in the distribution process.

“One will be located at West Oahu. Two here and we have one coming to North Hawaii Community Hospital which will allow us to expand our ability to store and vaccinate populations across the state,” said Jason Chang.

Hoggard Green added, “It may take us many months to get everyone vaccinated. So while that happens we need to be wearing masks, keeping our physical distance, washing our hands and if you haven’t gotten your flu shot you need to get your flu shot.”

Queen’s officials say the hospital’s vaccination effort will ramp up tomorrow. A second shipment of the vaccine is also expected to arrive totaling an additional 3,900 doses.

Health officials say coronavirus vaccines will be in every hospital in the state by early next week.

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