Amid COVID ‘breaking point,’ Native Hawaiian leaders push for more vaccinations

Published: Aug. 26, 2021 at 5:11 PM HST|Updated: Aug. 26, 2021 at 5:26 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Native Hawaiian leaders say the highly contagious Delta variant is hitting Hawaiian people harder than most communities.

Since July 1, state data shows, Native Hawaiians account for 27% of all new infections.

“We cannot continue to allow Hawaiians to be the group with the low vaccination rate and the high case counts,” said Mehana Hind, senior vice president for community programs at the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement.

A broad coalition, including representatives from the alii trusts, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, Queen’s Health Systems and the University of Hawaii’s John A. Burns School of Medicine, are taking part in a campaign to increase vaccination rates among Hawaiians.

“If more Hawaiians can get more vaccinated, maybe the case rate and infections can get lower,” said Dr. Gerard Akaka, of Queen’s Health Systems.

“The deaths, the hospitalizations and ER visits with the vaccinations can get to a better place.”

The plan calls for more community vaccination clinics and more outreach in rural areas.

They say more education is needed to combat the misinformation about the vaccine.

“There are still people who are on the fence that do not want to get vaccinated, do not trust government and believe in a lot of misinformation on social media,” said U.S. Rep. Kai Kahele.

Added state Sen. Jarrett Keohokalole: “In a lot of our Hawaiian communities that are rural or underserved, there’s a lack of access to healthcare.”

“And as a result, you get lack of access to really good information and medical experts who people trust. So we need to do that grassroots ourselves.”

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