Iti Salun-At Yo

Vaccine Hesitancy And Why You Should Get Immunized From COVID-19

Errol Buntuyan, M.D.

Vaccinations for COVID-19 are now open to people aged 12 and older in the state of Hawai‘i. Many organizations are offering the Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson and Johnson vaccines with opportunities almost every day of the week in various Maui locations.

Below is the link to a website that have current locations where covid-19 vaccinations are being provided on Maui:

Veteran Archie Domingo receives his Moderna vaccine.
Photo: Alfredo Evangelista


The Moderna and J&J vaccines are available to people over age 18 while Pfizer is eligible for ages 12 and up. There are already studies underway that will help determine the Emergency Use Authorization to include our pediatric population eligibility to receive these COVID vaccines. Once approved, our keiki will be able to get inoculated and become protected from infection.

All three available vaccines in the United States have been deemed safe. The single-dose Johnson and Johnson vaccine has been reinstated for distribution after a brief pause. There were reports of the rare occurrence (6 cases out of 6.8 million shots) of post vaccination blood clots in women under 50 years old. The chance of this happening is extremely low and has not been noted to frequently occur outside of this demographic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommend anyone with concerns about this vaccine should consult with their healthcare provider or choose one of the other two dose Moderna and Pfizer vaccine options.

Catherine Guillermo receives her Moderna vaccine.
Photo: Alfredo Evangelista

Thus far Maui County has been doing fairly well in getting vaccinated. At the end of April, the County of Maui was at 51 percent fully vaccinated and 33 percent receiving at least one dose. So please continue to arrange to receive your COVID vaccines. Many organizations on Maui are now doing ‘walk in’ (no appointment needed) clinics to receive the vaccine.

Though it seems Maui is heading in the right direction, unfortunately we are seeing hesitancy to receive these COVID vaccines. Many vaccine clinics have plenty of open appointment slots with a surplus of vaccines available. People that are reluctant to getting inoculated have doubted its safety and are fearful of side effects. Others are uncertain of vaccine efficacy or do not want the second shot because they may feel temporarily sick the next day. Some folks are willing to wait until more information on other options of vaccines become available.

If you know someone or if you are in doubt about getting immunized, here are three main reasons to consider getting vaccinated.

First, the long-term symptoms from COVID infection have been noted in up to 30 percent of people that are infected. Symptoms of cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, chest discomfort, palpitations, brain fog, headache, anxiety, hair loss, joint pains, etc. can last beyond six months. It is hard to imagine feeling ill with these symptoms for such a long period of time, yet many have been diagnosed with this ‘Long Term COVID’ condition. Thus, it is important to avoid contracting COVID disease in the first place by getting vaccinated and prevent catching this infection.

The second reason to consider COVID vaccination is the Vaccine Passport program. During this month of May, this new program will allow those that receive their vaccinations in Hawai‘i to bypass COVID testing and quarantine when traveling between islands. This is a welcome relief for the painstaking process of required COVID testing both pre and post interisland travel when landing on Maui. If this program is a success, it is hoped to expand to transpacific and worldwide travelers.

U.H. Maui College nursing student Lennel Alvarez explains the intake process to Dr. Buntuyan.
Photo: Alfredo Evangelista

The third reason to get vaccinated is for Hawai‘i to achieve herd immunity. According to the latest estimates, we need 70–85 percent of our population vaccinated to be considered resistant to the spread of further COVID infection in our community. Once this goal is reached, we can be one step closer to where life used to be. With herd immunity, mask requirements and social distancing will be lifted. We can finally be out of this pandemic. We hope to reach herd immunity by early July and we must encourage our hesitant friends and family to get vaccinated in order to achieve this goal.

Jeny Bissell, R.N. is flanked by Drs. Errol Buntuyan and Arlene Ricalde.
Photo: Alfredo Evangelista

With the reduction in vaccination rates due to hesitancy, we will a have a long way to get to herd immunity. The longer the delay in getting vaccinated, the greater chances that a more contagious and deadly COVID variant will infiltrate our local community. We cannot risk the inundation of our Maui healthcare system with yet another wave of infection and illness. Now is the time to band together in unity and encourage others to get vaccinated. This is the only way to protect ourselves and each other from the ravages of this deadly and debilitating COVID disease.

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.