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Experts: Education more influential than prizes when it comes to vaccinating Pacific Islanders

Published: Jun. 9, 2021 at 4:02 PM HST|Updated: Jun. 9, 2021 at 4:33 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - While prize giveaways have enticed some in Hawaii to get the COVID shot, outreach organizations who work with minority communities say education and access are far more influential.

“Personally, I feel like the incentive is going against our effort in educating people to understand what really matters. And what matters is their life,” said Josie Howard, CEO of We are Oceania.

For months, Howard has been on a mission ― communicating the benefits of the COVID vaccine to Hawaii’s Pacific Islander population.

One thing Howard’s not talking about is the state’s vaccination incentive program.

“Culturally we don’t announce (incentives),” she said. When you announce it’s almost like you’re defeating your whole purpose of being genuine, in being kind and sharing the spirit of aloha.”

From the pandemic’s onset, getting messages from health officials out to the Pacific Islander population has been a challenge.

Groups like We are Oceania have worked to bridge the gap.

“Now that people are understanding the benefit of the vaccine and they also understand how the vaccine is connected to opening up borders, opening up travel, all of those things -- people want to get vaccinated,” Howard said. “People want to be safe.”

State Health Department spokesperson Brooks Baehr said, “We know there are a lot of reasons that people have not been vaccinated.”

That’s why the state’s HI Got Vaccinated campaign goes beyond just incentives, also focusing on education and expanding access to the shot.

Throughout June, there are more than 300 sites statewide where people can get the vaccine.

“This is not a one size fits all kind of approach,” Baehr said.

Howard added, “We need to look through different lenses to be able to see everybody.”

She says when it comes to Pacific Islanders, clinics need to be held in a places people are familiar with and feel comfortable going to.

We are Oceania launched their weekly clinic in March at St. Elizabeth Episcopal Church.

“We were booked our very first week,” Howard said. “We helped 100 people with two nurses in three hours.”

For people who are interested in the state’s incentive program, the first drawing happens Friday. Prizes include Alaska Airlines tickets and 100,000 Hawaiian Airlines miles.

To be eligible for this first round, you have until midnight Thursday to get vaccinated and sign up.

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