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Hospital to hold vaccine drill

Maui Memorial and facilities across state prepare for eventual arrival of dosages

A nurse prepares a syringe during a study of a possible COVID-19 vaccine in July. Hawaii hospitals are conducting drills as they prepare for the eventual arrival of the vaccine. A federal panel of vaccine experts is meeting this week to consider Pfizer’s vaccine, and again next week for the candidate developed by Moderna. AP file photo

Maui Memorial Medical Center will hold a drill Thursday to prepare for the process of distributing and managing the COVID-19 vaccine once it arrives in Hawaii’s hospitals, a spokeswoman for Maui Health said Monday.

“We are actively preparing to receive the vaccine, which we expect to receive along with all other entities within a few weeks,” said Tracy Dallarda, spokeswoman for Maui Health, which operates Maui Memorial, Kula Hospital and Lana’i Community Hospital. “We have a highly engaged and active work group consisting of physicians, nurses, infection disease experts, engineering department, communications, human resources, employee health and others to coordinate the delivery, storage and vaccination schedule for our employees and providers.”

Medical facilities across the state are conducting similar drills; last week the Queen’s Medical Center on Oahu went through the motions of accepting a mock shipment of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. The shipping drill allowed Queen’s to prepare pharmacy and medical staff for acceptance and storage of the vaccine upon emergency use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the state Department of Health said.

Dallarda added that Maui Health is also awaiting Pfizer vaccines. Pfizer, BioNTech and Moderna are the frontrunners in a global race toward a vaccine; last week, partners Pfizer and BioNTech got temporary authorization for emergency use of their vaccine in the U.K. Both they and Moderna have applied for emergency use in the U.S. and are awaiting FDA hearings in the coming days.

Last week, Mayor Michael Victorino estimated that Maui County would receive around 16,000 doses of the vaccine in the first round. Because the vaccine needs to be administered twice, 8,000 individuals would be able to take part initially.

He added that the first vaccines will go to health care and frontline workers along with emergency responders, followed by nursing home residents and other vulnerable groups.

However, he said the vaccine likely wouldn’t be available to the general public until April, May or June of next year.

“There is not enough to go around; it will take many months to get it done,” Victorino said.

He emphasized that for now, the best preventative measure is wearing a mask and social distancing.

Maui Health, meanwhile, is in the midst of conducting a survey of its employees to find out whether they plan to take the vaccine and also allow them to ask questions, Dallarda said. Maui Health plans to answer the questions in a communication and provide staff with more information about the vaccination, she added.

Dallarda said she wasn’t sure if the number of vaccines Victorino spoke about included Maui Health, but said they will be managing the vaccines and the vaccination efforts for employees and providers.

Maui’s latest cases, which have reached double digits in recent days, have concerned both residents and health officials, with a number of clusters linked to bars and restaurants, a social gathering and a gym.

Recently three Maui elementary schools found out that a visiting state Department of Education employee had contracted COVID-19. DOE said over the weekend that the employee stopped by Pu’u Kukui, Pomaika’i and Kula elementary schools, but that the person’s interaction with students and staff was limited to one classroom at each school.

Pu’u Kukui sanitized any impacted areas, and Kula and Pomaika’i shut down the classrooms that were impacted, a spokeswoman said Monday.

There have been no impacts to the schedules of the three schools, and no positive cases have been reported at any of the sites.

The DOE added that the Department of Health is the lead agency responsible for officially notifying any individuals who may have been exposed and need to quarantine.

Health officials did not immediately respond to an inquiry Monday afternoon as to what they had ordered for the affected classrooms, though the Education Department said that out of an abundance of caution, staff and parents of students at the three schools who may have come into contact with the individual have been notified.

The DOE urges all staff, service providers, parents and students to perform a wellness check prior to arrival at a state public school facility, with steps listed at bit.ly/HIDOEWellnessCheck.

Deputy Maui County Managing Director Josiah Nishita said Monday that the county has asked for Gov. David Ige’s approval to make changes to county emergency rules that include strengthening the face covering requirements for bars and restaurants, along with providing further specifications and clarifications for weddings, ground transportation and commercial tour operators.

Victorino said Monday that he would not elaborate on what the changes were and preferred to wait until Ige made a decision. However, he added that he would give the public about five days notice for any changes, if approved.

The county and Maui District Health Officer Dr. Lorrin Pang have said that eating and drinking for long periods of time at local establishments have probably led to recent COVID-19 spread.

Another drive-thru COVID-19 testing event will take place from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday at The Shops at Wailea.

All participants must pre-register by visiting minitmed.com/pre-register-maui-covid-19.

Participants are asked to come to the test site at their designated time.

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at mtanji@mauinews.com.

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