HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - There’s evidence vaccination efforts are already starting to slow the spread of coronavirus in Hawaii.
COVID hospitalizations have fallen dramatically while new data shows the infection rate statewide has dropped below 2%.
At the same time, there’s a race to get shots in arms before a UK variant strain of the virus takes hold. Health officials say vaccination efforts are still being complicated by a shortage of shots.
Close to 50,000 vaccines were administered this week, while Hawaii has the logistics and manpower in place to do twice that many.
According to the state Department of Health’s website, health professionals have given a total of about 190,000 immunizations statewide.
“That’s quite a significant number of people in Hawaii,” said Hilton Raethel, head of the Healthcare Association of Hawaii. He said he’s seeing signs the shots are beginning to cut the state’s infection rate.
“It’s already having an impact we believe in the number of people who are getting sick,” he said. “And it helps reduce the transmission rate in the community.”
Lt. Gov. Josh Green agreed.
“All of the indicators are there is less spread in the state and that the vaccination program has begun to catch hold,” he said.
Green says statewide COVID hospitalizations have dropped 50% over the last month.
“Our hospital numbers are down to 55,” he said.
But a growing urgency to get people immunized is being hindered by the nationwide vaccine shortage.
“We’re in this race essentially to get people vaccinated before these variants become prevalent in Hawaii,” Raethel said. “Because the more people who are vaccinated the less opportunity exists for these viruses to mutate or take hold.”
Raethel confirmed the state is receiving about 40,000 doses of vaccine a week ― a number that is not expected to increase much before the end of the month.
“Because the supply is not going up materially, it means a lot of the doses that are coming into the state are being allocated for second doses which is slowing down our first dose rate,” he said.
On Thursday, Johnson & Johnson asked the FDA for an emergency use authorization of its single-shot vaccine. “If things play out the way the did with previous vaccinations I think we’ll start receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine hopefully around March 1,” Green said.
He added that will give Hawaii the capacity to start vaccinating those in Phase 1C of the state’s vaccination plan. That category includes close to 400,000 people, including those over the age of 65, people with underlying health conditions and broader cross-section of essential workers.