Big Island Coronavirus Updates

COVID-19 Vaccine Shipment Set to Arrive at HMC Next Week

December 9, 2020, 4:36 PM HST
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A COVID-19 vaccine shipment is expected to arrive at Hilo Medical Center early next week, officials reported this afternoon.

At this point, the vaccine, which will most likely be provided through Pfizer, is reserved for hospitals.

“We are hoping for an allocation that covers all our needs, but a lot of that’s being determined by how much the state gets then in turn how much is distributed to the various hospitals,” said Dan Brinkman, Regional CEO for the East Hawai‘i Region for Hawai‘i Health Systems Corporation (HHSC).

The Pfizer vaccine is shipped in containers of 925 doses. Brinkman is hopeful that HMC receives one of those containers. Once the vaccine is received, Brinkman said they would start the vaccination process within 48 hours which will continue for several days.

The Pfizer vaccine is given in the arm. Brinkman said it’s a two-shot process with a second shot given three weeks after the first. Vaccines will be administered by appointment so no doses are wasted.

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“We’d start with the most at risk and work our way out because we’re not sure how many vaccines we’re going to get and we’re also not sure of how many people want the vaccine,” Brinkman said.

Tracey Sliva, OR nurse with HMC’s ultra-cold freezer in the OR department. (PC: Hilo Medical Center)

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At HMC, Brinkman said, they are still working on the potential to be a distribution source for other hospitals as they are the only facility on the island with an ultra-cold freezer capable of storing this type of vaccine for long periods of time.

Storage packs are available through Pfizer, however, all vaccines in those packs must be used within 14 days.

Brinkman said HMC is not requiring its employees to take the vaccine at this time.

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“We think people should decide on their own if they want to be vaccinated or not,” Brinkman said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has provided guidance on who first to provide the vaccine to. They include residents and employees at long-term health care facilities and frontline healthcare workers.

There are two other groups identified for the vaccine. The second group will either be individuals with pre-existing conditions or essential workers and the third group is to the general public. Right now, Brinkman said they are only concerned with the first priority group. For HMC, that entails employees at significant risk of contracting COVID, and include hospital workers in general.

Surveys were sent to all 1,500 HMC employees and contractors to gauge how many would take the vaccine. About 650 people responded and of those individuals, Brinkman said 44% would take the vaccine, 28% were undecided and would think about it and the remaining 27.5% wouldn’t take it.

“I think everyone has understandable reservations about anything that’s new and anything that was so politicized like this vaccine process,” Brinkman said.

Brinkman said he will take the shot as he thinks it’s a good idea and endorses it.

“I would recommend to people to do their homework and keep an open mind, but I think to also understand that a vaccine is the safest and the quickest way to get us back to a more normal life,” Brinkman said. “We all have a collective responsibility to do what’s good for our community and to protect our loved ones.”

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