Experts optimistic that Hawaii could get to 70% vaccinated by end of summer

Experts weigh in on what it will take for Hawaii to reach a 70% vaccination rate -- and if it's enough.
Published: Jun. 4, 2021 at 9:46 PM HST|Updated: Jun. 7, 2021 at 11:09 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Roughly 52% of Hawaii’s population has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. But health experts are optimistic that the state can get to 70% ― and a new normal ― by the end of summer.

So far, more than 1.5 million doses have been given in Hawaii. Experts say it would take another 400,000 doses to get to 70%.

“We believe it’s doable,” said Hilton Raethel, president and CEO of the Healthcare Association of Hawaii. “If you got to 50,000 (doses) a week, it’s eight weeks. If you get up to 70,000 a week, it’s six weeks.”

That would take us into the end of July and early August, right as the first semester begins in public schools.

The problem is that according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Hawaii’s vaccine distribution rate is half of what it was just a month ago.

Those who aren’t vaccinated are unmotivated or unwilling. But epidemiologist DeWolfe Miller said it should be fairly obvious by now that the vaccines are safe.

“It opens you up to so many possibilities, like getting your life back, and safely. And so why wouldn’t you want to participate in that?” he said.

Hawaii’s vaccine rollout has already resulted in lower hospitalization and infection rates, along with steadily increasing flights to Hawaii. State economists predict 6.6 million visitor arrivals this year.

“The good news is that we’ve been able to open up the economy even at the 50 percent rate, and we haven’t had these spikes or these jump-ups,” Raethel said.

But for some, 70% is not a magic number, especially as the virus changes over time.

“We have a lot of variants that are emerging, and some of them are already here. And we need to beat them to the punch,” said Miller.

Is Hawaii up to the task?

“I think it’s doable,” said Kakaako resident Marisa Perez. “I mean most of the people that I’ve spoken with are willing to get vaccinated if they haven’t already been vaccinated.”

Her husband, Derek Perez, said that he would take advantage of the state’s new incentive program for those who have been vaccinated. But he believes there’s another reason to get the COVID shots.

“Just being able to travel without the restrictions, being able to go inter-island without having to do the health screenings and being able to visit people on the mainland if you have people to visit, I think, that’s the real incentive,” he said.

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