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Hospital’s vaccine clinic may close briefly over shortage

High percentage of unused vaccines in state reported

Doris Christenson receives her COVID-19 vaccination from Maui Memorial Medical Center RN Randi Casco Thursday afternoon at the hospital. Doris and her husband, Floyd Christenson, the founders of Mama’s Fish House, both were vaccinated. Asked what advice she would give to people who are leery of the shot, Doris Christenson said, “I would tell them, by all means, do it.” — The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

WAILUKU — Maui’s only community vaccination clinic may have to temporarily close Sunday afternoon if more Pfizer-BioNTech doses are not received today.

Maui Health System CEO Mike Rembis said he spent Friday morning placing urgent calls, seeking at least 975 doses to last through the weekend at Maui Memorial Medical Center’s vaccination clinic, the sole site currently accepting new registrants. There was no final decision as of Friday night.

“I’m very thankful for the vaccines we’re getting — I don’t want to be complaining,” Rembis said. “It’s just not enough for our community.”

Earlier this week, a KITV report said the state has a high number of unused vaccines.

Some vaccines have been stockpiled on Oahu for a mass vaccination event that starts Monday, organized by Hawaii Pacific Health, the state and the city.

Syringes are shown during a vaccination clinic at Maui Memorial Medical Center on Thursday. The hospital’s clinic is the only site on Maui currently taking new registrations from the public, but it may have to temporarily close Sunday afternoon if it doesn’t receive more doses today, officials said. — The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

“We have 20,000 doses sitting in Hawaii Pacific Health freezers to use at the site,” Hawaii Pacific Health CEO Raymond Vara said Wednesday.

That’s part of the reason only about 40,000 vaccines have been administered, even though Hawaii has already received more than 109,000, the report said.

State Department of Health spokesman Brooks Baehr said Friday evening that vaccines are not being stockpiled “in a manner that would favor Oahu residents over anyone else in Hawaii, including residents on Maui.

“I just did some quick math,” he said via email. “Google tells me there are 167,417 residents on Maui. Google tells me there are 953,207 residents on Oahu.

“According to the latest information posted on the Department of Health Disease Outbreak and Control Division website, 4,182 vaccinations have been administered on Maui and 25,613 vaccinations have been administered on Oahu,” Baehr added. “This translates to 2.49 percent of the population on Maui having been vaccinated and 2.68 percent of the population having been vaccinated on Oahu.”

A state DOH report Friday afternoon said Hawaii to date has received 152,650 Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines, with more than 56,000 administered. It did not break down brands of doses received or administered.

Baehr said the state DOH website shows vaccination data should be taken in context. Doses received are reported quickly, however, there can be a lag in reporting and verifying when doses are administered, especially because the state culls information from 40 statewide sites.

“It’s like comparing apples to oranges,” he said. “It takes time to verify (reports of doses administered). We want to make sure the number we are giving is accurate.”

Baehr said Maui Health is slated to receive two trays of the Pfizer vaccine (each tray has 975 doses), with one arriving Tuesday and the other Thursday.

Also next week, he said 2,000 doses of Moderna are scheduled to arrive for Maui District Health Office’s point of distribution site at University of Hawaii Maui College, along with another 500 doses of Moderna for a possible Kaiser Kihei clinic.

Maui Health, which oversees Maui Memorial, Kula Hospital and Lanai Community Hospital, is currently operating the island’s sole community vaccine clinic in Maui Memorial’s main lobby daily from 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.

A week ago Friday it began accepting online reservations for residents in Phase 1A — health care personnel and long-term care facility residents — and Phase 1B — frontline essential workers and adults 75 and older. Pfizer’s is the only vaccine offered at the site.

Additional Pfizer vaccines are scheduled to arrive Monday afternoon, Rembis said. He said if the clinic closes, it can reopen Tuesday but will likely have supply for only three days next week.

“I want the community to know we’re doing everything we can to get more vaccine and expand sites and protect this community,” Rembis said. “The mayor and (Lt. Gov. Josh Green) are trying to help. I just don’t know how I’m going to get them.”

Rembis added that vaccine shortages are not just a Maui problem. Colleagues on Oahu and the Mainland are also seeing demand outweigh supply. However, he said he’s wondering whether unused vaccines can be reallocated.

“This is about how do we get those doses that are out there and not administered yet into people’s arms,” Rembis said.

Maui’s UH-MC point of distribution site is temporarily closed to new registrations. Moderna is the only vaccination offered at the site.

A Maui District official on Friday afternoon said the UH-MC site is focusing on second doses for Phase 1A residents who have already received their initial dose at UH-MC or first doses for those who were registered but were turned away last week. Second doses for Moderna are administered after 28 days. New registrations are not being accepted at this time.

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

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