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Health Center Vaccinates 300 During Public Clinic

By Catherine Cluett Pactol

In the first round of COVID-19 vaccines available on Molokai to all residents over the age of 18, Molokai Community Health Center held a vaccine clinic last Thursday and Friday with about 1100 Moderna vaccines available. Approximately 300 of those doses were administered during the two-day event, with about 100 in the first hour on Thursday.

“With Maui positivity cases on the rise last week combined with the emergence of the more virulent variants in the state, this was a feel good event for our team to be able to offer the vaccine to our whole community at a time that we are seeing yet another uptick in the County,” said MCHC CEO Helen Kekalia Wescoatt after the clinic. “Vaccines are our best defense against COVID-19, and it was a privilege to collaborate with our colleagues at Na Pu’uwai to ensure all individuals on Molokai have this opportunity.”

While the turnout at the clinic was lower than some expected, it’s unclear to health officials on Molokai how many more residents may want to get vaccinated. Roughly 5,000 people on Molokai are estimated by the Dept. of Health to be eligible for vaccination based on age. Local healthcare professionals say about 3,000 vaccines have been administered on the island so far. That leaves an estimated 2,000 residents who may or may not plan to get vaccinated.

“Who wants it is a personal choice at this point; I think our main goal is just to make sure it’s available and we’ll worry about the numbers later,” Wescoatt said Thursday. “People want to be able to travel again, to see friends and family. I’m hopeful that we do see a lot of people take advantage of this, I believe it is an extra layer of protection.”

She added that once the state changes travel regulations to allow vaccinated people to travel more freely, it will likely give more incentive for some to choose the vaccine. However, it also goes the other way.

“The more people do get vaccinated from a policy standpoint, I don’t see how that can be ignored… we’ll have to start changing the process for people [to allow travel for those who get vaccinated],” she said.

Landon Opunui, a naturopathic physician and medical director at Na Pu’uwai who joined other Na Pu’uwai staff in assisting to administer vaccines during MCHC’s clinic, suggested residents both think critically and listen to their intuition about the decision whether or not to get vaccinated.

“My message to my patients is that it’s important that we align our mind, heart and intuition and decide what is best for ourselves and the community,” he said. “So anyone who is on the fence should think critically, they should listen to their heart and what is best for the good of their community and our families, and trust their intuition on what they think is the best thing for them to do for their personal health.”

Though the DOH has not publicly stated that Molokai healthcare providers are free to move into Phase 2 — which is the general public over the age of 16— Wescoatt said the DOH was aware of MCHC’s clinic and did give her their support. The rest of the state remains in Phase 1c, which includes adults age 60 and over and those with medical conditions.

Residents who received their first dose during last week’s MCHC clinic will return for their second shot April 22-23. For those who want to get vaccinated but didn’t make it to last week’s clinic, Wescoatt said MCHC will continue to have the Moderna vaccine available to the public by appointment.

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