HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - State officials said Tuesday that the distribution of doses of the COVID-19 vaccine in Hawaii was being hamstrung by difficulties in obtaining vials of the vaccine in the first place.
Speaking during a press conference at the state Capitol, Gov. David Ige told reporters that slowdowns in vaccine distribution at the federal level, not hiccups in the vaccination process here in Hawaii, were to blame for the slow rollout.
“I want to emphasize that we all want (the state’s vaccination efforts) to move quickly to contain COVID-19,” said Gov. Ige. “The Department of Health is not sitting on thousands of doses. We’re moving it out as quickly as we receive them.”
The delivery of vaccines from the federal stockpile to Hawaii has been unpredictable, health officials said during the press conference.
Roughly 59,000 doses of the vaccine were delivered to Hawaii last week, said Lt. Gov. Josh Green, but only about 32,000 doses were shipped to Hawaii this week ― about half as many as the week before.
And of the 32,000 doses sent to Hawaii this week, only about 19,000 were intended for use as a first dose; both the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines require two separate doses taken weeks apart.
“We are constrained by the number of vaccines that are allocated to the state of Hawaii by the federal government,” said Gov. Ige. “I want to encourage everyone to be patient.”
Some elements of the state’s plan to distribute doses of the vaccine that it does have on hand, however, have come under criticism in recent days.
Hawaii News Now has learned that some kupuna caregivers ― younger, healthier individuals who would otherwise not qualify to receive the vaccine at this stage in the process ― have been able to take the vaccine when helping those who are at least 75 years old get their shots, potentially cutting into the available supply for those who need it most.
“From a public health standpoint it makes sense that if there is a caregiver for a kupuna that they’d both be vaccinated,” said Dr. Char. “However, because our vaccine supply is so limited right now, we’re preferring to vaccinate the kupuna alone, just because it allows that much more vaccine to go to the kupuna.”
The state also drew criticism when would-be vaccine recipients were being charged a $5 parking fee in order to park and take the vaccine at the Pier 2 mass vaccination site.
“There will be no more charging for parking. People did a little soul searching on that,” said Lt. Gov. Josh Green, when asked about the practice of charging for parking to receive a vaccine during a public health emergency. “We’ve been told that they’re not gonna charge for parking anymore.”
This story will be updated,