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On Maui, health officials struggling to vaccinate more people say they’ve ‘hit a wall’

Published: Jun. 4, 2021 at 6:23 PM HST|Updated: Jun. 4, 2021 at 11:45 PM HST
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KIHEI (HawaiiNewsNow) - While state officials urge people to get a COVID vaccine, health experts are using new maps to target areas with especially low vaccination rates.

On Maui, the information by zip code is highlighting several problem areas.

Dr. Lorrin Pang, Maui District health officer, says they are having a harder time vaccinating Maui residents. “We actually hit the wall,” he said.

“You have to promise them, ‘I’m not going to see if you’re here legally or illegally, I’m not going to see if you paid your taxes or not. We’re just going to vaccinate you,’” Pang said.

According to state health officials, 55% of Maui residents are fully vaccinated.

New maps from the Hawaii Department of Health show vaccination rates by zip code. According to the DOH website, Kihei has one of the lowest COVID-19 vaccination rates at 35 to 45%.

It’s alarming to Kihei resident Jeff Melcher.

“It is actually. When you told me that, I’m kind of actually shocked honestly because Kihei seems to be a hub of where a lot of people work in the industry where it is hospitality,” said Melcher.

A group of residents hold signs in Kihei each week opposing the vaccine.

Pang says some people are hesitant and some just don’t want it. He says he will be meeting with those against the vaccine this weekend.

“They’re rather distrustful of the regulators and the government,” Pang said. “I will hear them, whatever they have to say, if they are willing to listen to me. Both sides. At least listen to each other.”

For those still on the fence, Melcher suggests easier alternatives for unscheduled drop-ins.

“Maybe have more locations that can be available for people just to cruise in, get it done, instead of a big appointment at a big hospital or something,” he said.

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