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Push to get independent doctors, staff vaccinated

Dentists and staff included in Phase 1; more doses on the way

Maui District Health Officer Dr. Lorrin Pang oversees Saturday’s vaccination program for frontline health care workers at University of Hawaii Maui College. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

With Maui’s hospital already rolling out COVID-19 vaccines for its staff and first responders also getting the shot from state Health Department and National Guard officials last week, local community doctors didn’t know where they fit in.

Dr. Blan Williams with Maui Medical Group wondered how community physicians not affiliated with the hospital would be administered the vaccine as inoculations began Wednesday on Maui.

But through quick work by the state Department of Health and a local independent physician, Williams, along with other Maui Medical Group physicians and staff, were vaccinated Monday at University of Hawaii Maui College, where first responders and other health care workers are getting the shot.

Williams gave credit to Maui District Health Officer Dr. Lorrin Pang and the department.

“The vaccination was efficient and well run. I also have to thank the many volunteers who made this possible.”

Gema Diaz helps her mom, Delfina Jimenez, tie the hood of her plastic rain coat during wet, blustery weather Saturday at the UH-Maui parking lot. The two volunteers were helping register frontline workers to be vaccinated.  The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

Pang on Monday said Dr. Colleen Inouye, Maui director of Hawaii Independent Physicians Association, is the point person for community physicians and staff seeking inoculation. She may be reached at 871-7122.

Pang said community physicians may feel “orphaned” in the vaccine rollout because they are not part of a specific organization.

Officials said independent physicians and staff don’t need to be affiliated with Hawaii Independent Physicians Association to be vaccinated.

Under Phase 1 priority group, essential healthcare workers, long-term care facility residents and staff and first responders may voluntarily receive a vaccine, according to state DOH. Pang emphasized that Phase 1 also includes dentists and staff.

The general public is not yet eligible to receive the vaccine. Pang on Monday asked that first responders and health care workers refrain from sending registration information to family and friends who are not part of Phase 1. Once an appointment day becomes available, Maui District officials are calling eligible groups and agencies to send people who have registered.

A dose of the Moderna vaccine is prepared during a drive-thru clinic for first responders and frontline workers at UH-Maui College on Wednesday. About 215 doses were administered Wednesday, 470 Saturday and 562 Monday, according to a Maui District Health official. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

Starting Wednesday and through end of day Monday, Maui Memorial Medical Center had administered 716 Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines to Maui Health Systems employees and providers at its daily on-site clinic, according to a hospital spokeswoman.

Also on Wednesday, state DOH officials, along with Hawaii National Guard, started a closed point of distribution site with Moderna vaccinations for first responders and health care workers three days a week at the college. About 215 doses were administered Wednesday, 470 Saturday and 562 Monday, according to a Maui District Health official.

As vaccines were rolled out last week, the move to get vaccines to independent physicians also began.

Inouye said she reached out to Pang on Wednesday night with her concerns about independent physicians and staff having a process to attend the vaccination clinic.

“There are community physicians who are not part of the hospital staff or who don’t go to the hospital daily,” she said. “They couldn’t easily get their vaccinations. I went ahead and said we need to do something about this.”

Inouye said the Hawaii Independent Physicians Association, the state’s largest association of independent physicians, includes about local 100 physicians and providers. Another 50 Maui physicians and providers are unaffiliated.

She said Pang responded by opening 100 spots for independent physicians and staff Saturday.

On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, Inouye worked to contact key community physicians who “have a lot of close contact” with patients, including those in primary care, ophthalmology, dermatology and ear, nose and throat specialists.

She said she was able to fill the spots with people representing about 15 local provider offices, which means many more community physicians and staff are eligible.  

Inouye, who received her vaccine Saturday, said the UH-MC clinic is run well, and she encouraged other health care workers to vaccinate.

“I’m a big proponent of preventative care,” the obstetrics and gynecology doctor said. “Certainly, I recommend the vaccine.”

Hawaii expects to receive a combined total of 61,450 vaccine doses by the end of the year, according to a state DOH news release. This represents a delay in shipment of 24 percent of the 81,825 doses the state anticipated receiving by Thursday.

Maui last week received the least amount of vaccines of the four Hawaii counties, which included 975 Pfizer and 2,000 Moderna doses, state DOH said.

DOH spokesman Brooks Baehr said in a news release that the state received its second shipment of Moderna vaccines Monday, including 5,200 doses on Oahu and another 5,700 doses arriving on Neighbor Islands.

Maui District Health officials said 2,200 doses of Moderna were received Monday.

Pharmacies, CVS and Walgreens were also expecting deliveries Monday for use in long-term care facilities, Baehr added.

Hale Makua Health Services CEO Wesley Lo on Monday said all nursing facilities opted to go with Moderna’s vaccine and the Maui nonprofit is using Walgreens for its vaccinations.

Hale Makua’s Kahului site dates for vaccination are Wednesday and Thursday; the second vaccination is not yet scheduled. Wailuku site dates are Jan. 7 and Feb. 5.

The state is expecting another delivery of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine today, according to a news release, although a number of doses and county allocations were not provided.

MMMC spokeswoman Mahie Wong said Maui Health anticipates a second shipment of 975 Pfizer-BioNTech doses today.

* Kehaulani Cerizo can be reached at kcerizo@mauinews.com.

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