Maui COVID-19 Vaccine Update
Errol Buntuyan | M.D., F.A.A.P.
It has been a fast paced and often frustrating February throughout our Maui community in terms of people trying to get access to the COVID-19 vaccine. There are now multiple vaccine distribution sites throughout our island and more are planned into the month of March. These clinics are based on the supply chain and when they can be delivered to Maui. Because of this, there may not be many appointment slots yet available. The focus for all the vaccine centers is still on our kupuna population of 75 years and older, with consideration of lowering the age criteria very soon to 70 years old and above. State officials know should this population contract COVID-19, they are at higher risk of being hospitalized with complications due to the infection.
Maui Health Systems (MHS) continues to distribute the two-dose Pfizer vaccine out of the Maui Memorial Medical Center lobby. They are currently working on the original waitlist of registrations that were canceled earlier in January because of limited supplies. Weather conditions on the mainland have delayed the delivery of the vaccines last week but as these conditions improve, we expect more of a steady stream of incoming vaccines each week. MHS will be notifying those folks who previously signed up by phone or email.
MHS has partnered with Kaiser Permanente (KP) to distribute two-dose Moderna vaccines out of the KP Kihei Clinic at Azeka Plaza. The clinic will run distributions on Wednesdays and Fridays and will only be functioning as a vaccine distribution center. No other medical services will be provided at the KP Kīhei Clinic during this time. The plan is to work on the MHS waitlist for people who live on the south side of Maui. No new appointments or registrations are yet available. Once the waitlist is reduced, the MHS webpage will open to take new registrations. MHS expects to reopen registration for new appointments the week of March 8. There will be advertisement notices in the Maui News and weekly updates on the MHS website at www.mauihealth.org/covidvaccine.
The KP Maui Lani Clinic in Wailuku also started a two-dose Moderna vaccine distribution center. So far, there were over 500 vaccines given to kūpuna over the Presidents’ Holiday Weekend and the plan is to schedule more in the near future once the vaccine supply chain is secured. Eligible KP members will be notified by text and kp.org email when these vaccine clinics will be available to book an appointment.
The Maui District Health Office (MDHO) continues to give the Moderna vaccines at UH Maui College in their drive thru Moderna clinics. They are working with the small group, solo community clinicians, community groups for seniors and employers of essential workers to get those eligible groups vaccinated.
Other larger organizations like Mālama I Ke Ola, Maui Medical Group and MinitMedical also received vaccine supplies from MDHO and are organizing distribution clinics throughout their offices. CVS and some pharmacies also started taking appointments to distribute vaccines. Please contact these organizations directly to find out how to register for a vaccination.
Many folks have questions about the safety of the COVID-19 vaccine. We are certain no scientific short cuts were taken to ensure the safety and efficacy of these vaccines. The two current COVID-19 vaccines were well tolerated since the start of distribution to the general public in mid-December. A third vaccine from Johnson and Johnson (J&J) was also recently approved and is now ready for distribution. The J&J vaccine establishes high immunity with just a single dose. This J&J vaccine will arrive on Maui in March.
COVID-19 Vaccine Side Effects
In terms of side effects from the COVID-19 vaccine, most people do not have serious issues after being vaccinated. There are reports of minor problems like soreness, redness or warmth of the arm. Some people reported headaches or fever after getting the vaccine. These do not last more than a week after receiving the shot. Having these mild symptoms often are a sign your immune system is being activated to create antibodies to fight against the disease. Both these vaccines do not contain live virus and thus cannot give you the COVID-19 infection.
These vaccines are also a two-part series. For Pfizer, the minimum amount of time between the first and second dose is 21 days, and for the Moderna vaccine it is 28 days. Most vaccine distribution centers will have information on when you will be scheduled for your second dose. Once you have both doses of the vaccine, you will be up to 94 percent protected from contracting and getting infected with the COVID-19 virus two weeks after the second dose.
Get Vaccinated When You Become Eligible
The Maui vaccine story is a constantly evolving process involving many organizations. It really is an exciting time to know the vaccines are here on Maui and work is underway to get our community protected. Until most of us are vaccinated, we still need to remain vigilant and practice the safety protocols we have in place to reduce our exposure risks. This March, we came upon the one year anniversary of the start of pandemic and lockdown.
We have come a long way in a year full of change, frustration and heartbreak. What we at once knew as normal seems so long ago. Moving forward, our community must remain resilient and maintain hope. With these vaccines now on Maui, plan to get yours when your eligibility group is announced. Look for the announcements on the radio, Maui News, and your organizations’ websites. One day soon we will be back to enjoying the lives we used to lead before the advent of this deadly virus.
Errol Buntuyan, M.D., F.A.A.P. is a Family Medicine Practitioner and the Physician in Charge of Maui Primary Care at Kaiser Permanente. Born in Quezon City and raised in Southern California, he has been practicing medicine on Maui since 2007. Dr. Buntuyan promotes whole food, plant based nutrition, regular physical activity, stress mindfulness and sleep hygiene as keys to optimum health and wellness. He enjoys cooking, playing tennis and travel.