Big Island Coronavirus Updates

Rates of COVID Infection, Vaccination Not Equitable Racially in Hawaii

March 16, 2021, 4:33 PM HST
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The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted serious and longstanding public health disparities in Hawai‘i.

The State Department of Health on Tuesday released data measuring the incidence of COVID-19 among races against the number of people vaccinated in those demographics. Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders were had the least encouraging numbers, with fewer than 9% vaccinated in each group. Native Hawaiians represent 21% of the state’s population and have registered 19% of the state’s COVID-19 infections, while Pacific Islanders represent just 4% of Hawai´i residents but have endured 22% of confirmed coronavirus illnesses.

PC: Hawaii County

African Americans in Hawai´i have the lowest vaccination rate as of Tuesday at 6.4%. Approximately 19% of white residents have received at least one dose of the vaccine, while 25% of the Asian population has been vaccinated. More data can be found here.

“We strongly value health equity for all people in Hawai‘i,” Dr. Sarah Kemble, Acting State Epidemiologist said. “While the Department’s health equity report and vaccine administration data is new, the health disparities it reveals in disproportionately impacted communities are long-standing. This data emphasizes the importance of our diverse coalition of partners who are targeting outreach to these communities. All of us will continue to work together to ensure that Hawaii’s response to the pandemic is equitable.”

A new report, “COVID-19 in Hawai‘i: Addressing Health Equity in Diverse Populations,” details the racial and ethnic disparities in COVID-19 infections and deaths in the state of Hawai‘i, documents the actions taken to reduce transmission across the state, and provides recommendations based on lessons learned from the COVID-19 response. It is expected to be released on the DOH website on Tuesday.

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Vaccine data categorized by race will be updated every week day. This data is currently limited due to the federal vaccine registration system, which provides a fixed number of race reporting fields. DOH said it is taking action to improve data collection to disaggregate this data in the future.

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A group of diverse community partners and DOH are leveraging federal and state resources to expand outreach into these diverse communities, the department continued. DOH said in a release that it has taken the following actions:

  • Collaborating with and funding for community-based organizations that have native language speakers to provide outreach within the Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, and Filipino (NHPIF) speaking populations
  • Translating vaccination guidance, consent, and public education materials in up to 16 languages
  • Training community health workers from the NHPIF communities to be ready for state vaccination implementation
  • Building relationships with leaders and representatives of Pacific Islander faith communities and providing virtual town hall meetings and answering questions
  • Providing online vaccine fact sheets and screening questions in more than 16 languages and materials are regularly updated
  • Providing public health representation in NHPIF and senior (kūpuna) organized community-based virtual townhall meetings on panel discussions and forums
  • Prioritizing support for federally qualified health care centers (FQHCs) to prepare for vaccine administration

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