As eligibility expands, demand for COVID-19 vaccine starts to dwindle on Neighbor Islands

Updated: Apr. 20, 2021 at 6:30 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii joined the rest of the nation Monday in making the COVID vaccine available to everyone 16 and up.

While the desire for the shot on Oahu remains high, health officials say that sense of urgency is starting to subside in other parts of the state.

On the Neighbor Islands, everyone over the age of 16 has been eligible for the COVID vaccine since early April. Officials say demand there is beginning to taper off.

“We’re still doing OK. But the demand does seem to be softening just a little. And that is what’s concerning us,” said Hilton Raethel, CEO of Healthcare Association of Hawaii.

[Read more: Oahu joins rest of state in expanding COVID vaccine eligibility to everyone 16 and older]

With just over 1 million COVID vaccines administered, Hawaii is half way to what health officials believe it will take for the state to reach herd immunity. “We should be at 80% to 85% (of the population vaccinated) because of the variants that are out there,” Raethel said.

On Monday morning, Lt. Gov. Josh Green was at the Hilo Medical Center to get a sense of what’s happening first-hand.

He says efforts are also underway to ensure people who live in remote areas have access to the shot.

“Some of our rural communities, we’re still waiting for extra help,” Green said. “So we’re going to go out to the communities more.”

Authorities assume that some people just need a little push ― so expect to see public service announcements everywhere in the coming weeks.

The message: The COVID vaccine is available. It’s safe and it’s highly effective.

“Two to three weeks from now we anticipate the demand is going to wane even more,” Raethel said. “And that’s why that messaging and that communication is going to be so much more important. So we can get to those critical levels of herd immunity in the state.”

Besides hospitals and vaccination hubs you can also sign up for a coronavirus vaccine at about 100 pharmacies across the state.

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