After backlash, state asks partners to vaccinate only kupuna, not caregivers

Published: Jan. 19, 2021 at 6:00 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - State officials said Tuesday that they had asked their healthcare partners to vaccinate only kupuna at mass inoculation events due to a shortage of available doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.

About 100 people under 75 years old were vaccinated at Pier 2 on Monday because they served as escorts for the seniors.

The escorts, Hawaii News Now have learned, didn’t even have to be medical caregivers ― they just need to be someone who takes the kupuna to get their shots.

Dr. Melinda Ashton, the chief quality officer at Hawaii Pacific Health, which is organizing the vaccinations at Pier 2, said the state came up with the idea to encourage participation.

“The thinking is more of the seniors will be brought to the vaccination center if the escorts were able to be vaccinated,” she said

But the problem is that there’s a shortage of available vaccine doses right now.

“It really becomes an issue of supply and demand, and at this point we just don’t have the vaccine that we thought we were going to be receiving,” said Dr. Libby Char, director of the Hawaii Health Department.

Late Tuesday, the Health Department issued a statement asking its medical partners to vaccinate only kupuna, at least for the time being.

“We’re preferring to vaccinate the kupuna alone,” said Char.

The state said it hopes that the federal government will provide more doses in the coming weeks.

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