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Hospital workers first in Maui County to receive vaccine

Maui Health System nurses Sloan Ponte (from left), Taryn Pacheco, Kiki Quarry and Katie Talbot flex for the cameras after being four of the first frontline staffers vaccinated for COVID-19 Wednesday morning at the hospital. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photos

A respiratory therapist, an emergency room physician and other Maui Memorial Medical Center staff became the first people in Maui County to receive the COVID-19 vaccine early Wednesday morning.

The very first shot of the 975 Pfizer-BioNTech doses, which were delivered to Maui Health on Monday, went to Will Ambat, a respiratory therapist.

“We’re very close to these patients every time we do care,” Ambat told The Maui News after getting the shot. “That’s why I’m very happy about this vaccine, so at this point I can continue to care for our patients and do so safely with a peace of mind, and also help protect them and also my family.”

When asked if he was experiencing any side effects, Ambat said he felt happy.

“Unless happiness is a side effect, and I’m typically not happy this early in the morning,” he joked.

Emergency Dept. Physician Dr. Jason Aines is vaccinated for COVID-19 by graduate nurse Sean Merrell. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photos

Dr. Jason Aines, an emergency room physician and co-director of the Maui Memorial Emergency Department, became the first doctor in Maui County to receive the vaccine Wednesday morning.

“There are a lot of emotions that kind of go through your head on a day like today,” Aines told The Maui News afterwards. “I feel incredibly gracious and thankful for all the hard work that went into the research and development and production and testing and distribution of the vaccine. … All of that was done for this moment to finally start immunizing people and protecting ourselves and protecting the community here on the island.

“It’s a big day, it’s an exciting day, it’s a day that we can start looking forward to turning the corner on this.”

Maui Health said that vaccine clinics will be held at Maui Memorial seven days a week, 10 hours a day, to ensure all employees and affiliated physicians can receive the vaccine if they wish. At this time, Maui Health is not offering vaccines to the general public.

The Moderna vaccines are expected to arrive at Lanai Community Hospital next week, with clinics to be scheduled soon. CVS Pharmacy, which is helping efforts to vaccinate long-term care facilities nationwide, will administer the Moderna vaccines on Lanai.

The Pfizer vaccine is administered by graduate nurse Jodi Mormon Wednesday at Maui Memorial Medical Center. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photos

For more on the story, see Thursday’s edition of The Maui News.

Respiratory Therapist Will Ambat was the first to be vaccinated at the hospital Wednesday. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photos

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