Hawaii youth roll up their sleeves for vaccine, but at a slower pace than kupuna

Updated: Apr. 23, 2021 at 5:41 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - With everyone 16 and up now eligible for a COVID vaccine, Hawaii teens and young people are rolling up their sleeves for a shot at normalcy.

“It was really fast,” said 16-year-old Carson Loughridge, after getting vaccinated. “I’m really excited to play basketball more with my friends and go on hikes with them.”

He came to Pier 2 on Friday with his mom for the vaccine.

Seventeen-year-old Hokulani Pacarro got the shot earlier this week.

“It was kind of a relief to at least get the first dose done,” she said.

When the state opened up vaccinations Monday to people 16 and up, health leaders thought there would be a deluge of people signing up.

Dr. Melinda Ashton, executive vice president and chief quality officer at Hawaii Pacific Health, said the clinic is filling appointments but at a slower pace than when kupuna rushed to sign up.

“We were thinking there would be pent up demand and there’s demand, but it’s not feeling the same as when we were going from 65 to 60,” she said.

Next week, Hawaii Pacific Health has 12,600 open appointments on its website.

Ashton said there are multiple reasons for the slower demand, including more vaccination sites, concerns over the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, a perception that young people aren’t impacted by COVID and vaccine hesitancy.

“There’s a perception that young people don’t get sick with COVID even if you are infected with it and that may be true for many,” Ashton said.

“But we don’t know and there are lots of young people who get quite ill.”

Ella Kang, 19, said she trusts the science.

“That’s why I got it, but I can definitely see how young people may not want to or be inclined to at this time,” she said.

Joshua Fujita, 21, said he rushed to get the shot.

“As soon as I heard it was available, I rushed down here as soon as I could,” he said.

Ashton said the vaccines have been safely administered since December.

“Anyone that was waiting to see if there was side effects or worried about other reasons to wait, I think you may have waited long enough. It’s time now to to get vaccinated,” Ashton said.

Ashton added Pier 2 is delivering only Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.

As families make plans for the summer, she has this advice.

“They best way we can protect children is to surround them with people who are vaccinated,” she said.

Health experts say Pfizer could get emergency approval for 12- to 15-year-olds in the next few weeks. Vaccinations for younger people aren’t expected until early 2022.

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