Hawai‘i Herald Columnist
Now that the state has finally announced that people 65 and older can get vaccinated, let’s hope we can get through the 1c priority group quickly and not leave any kupuna behind.
At AARP Hawai‘i we have been working with government officials and other nonprofits to help küpuna get information about vaccinations. We also pushed the state to prioritize küpuna as Hawai‘i in this phase tries to balance vaccinating essential workers, those with high-risk medical conditions and küpuna. [For more on who can register for vaccination in phase 1c, see hawaiicovid19.com/vaccination-registration/.]
Our position is based on science. According to the Hawai‘i Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control data, küpuna 50 and older account for nearly 95% of COVID-19 deaths in Hawai‘i. Those age 50-64 who become infected with COVID-19 are four times more likely to be hospitalized than younger people.
We understand that Hawai‘i didn’t want to see the swamped phone lines and overwhelmed computer systems that elders in other states experienced when the Department of Health and Human Services under former President Trump, and later, President Biden, urged that individuals 65 and older be prioritized several weeks ago.
But since then, küpuna 65 and older in other states are getting vaccinated and many in Hawai`i are still waiting for their turn.
It turns out not all küpuna had to wait. AARP Hawai‘i asked members and non-members to fill out an online questionnaire; more than 60% of those 50 and older told us they received their first shot and 94% of those 75 and older have been vaccinated.
Many younger küpuna are considered essential workers so they were able to get vaccinations. It also appears that some doctors, health providers and PODS (Points of Dispensing vaccinations) have the flexibility to identify and vaccinate some people with serious medical conditions, but it doesn’t appear that this practice is widespread.
Our questionnaire was online, so people who responded can use a computer. About 70% of those who answered our questions said they made their vaccination appointments online and most said it was easy to do so. But we can’t leave anyone behind: küpuna who do not use computers, have disparities because they don’t speak English and are homebound must also be able to get information and be vaccinated. The state needs to make sure that there are enough resources for phone lines and to reach isolated küpuna who are not online.
The questionnaire is still active and we are continuing to listen and forward what we hear to state officials. Go to action.aarp.org to fill out the questionnaire.
We are also working to get you important information about the vaccination process. AARP Hawai‘i is holding a webinar with Gen. Kenneth Hara, the leader of the state’s COVID-19 response, and C.J. Johnson of the Department of Health. Hara will answer questions about the state’s Safe-Travels program; Johnson will answer your questions about the vaccine. Go to aarp.org/
nearyou to register for a Zoom link. The webinar is on Tuesday, March 23 at noon and will also be on the AARP Hawai‘i Facebook page (facebook.com/AARPHawaii/).
Craig Gima is communications director at AARP Hawai‘i. He is an award-winning multimedia communicator with more than 30 years of experience. A Honolulu native, Gima spent nearly 19 years at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser in a variety of reporting, editing and online roles before joining AARP in 2016. Gima graduated cum laude from the University of Southern California.