High vaccination rates in some health facilities in Hawaii
Between 10% and 20% of employees and residents of some nursing and long-term care facilities in eastern Hawaii are still not vaccinated against COVID-19.
At the start of the state’s vaccine rollout, when availability was limited, health workers and residents of long-term care facilities were given priority and among the first to be offered immunization.
But in a state-wide survey of member facilities – the results of which were reported in late May – the Healthcare Association of Hawaii found that 84% of staff at nursing and long-term care facilities qualified were fully vaccinated against COVID-19, up 6% from a survey in February.
Meanwhile, 92% of residents on average were vaccinated, up 2% from February.
Many vaccination rates at long-term care facilities in eastern Hawaii are consistent with the statewide survey.
At Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home, 85 of 94 staff, or 90%, have been vaccinated, while 50 of 56 residents, or 89%, are vaccinated.
Meanwhile, 37 of 43 employees, or 86%, of employees at the extended care facility at Hilo Medical Center have received vaccines, as have 28 of 33 residents, or 84%.
Some 116 of Hale Ho’ola Hamakua’s 133 employees in Honokaa, or 87%, while 57 of 60 long-term care residents, or 95%, have been vaccinated.
In Ka’u, 49 of 57 staff at Ka’u Hospital, which has long-term care beds, were vaccinated, while 14 of 16 residents, or 87%, received vaccines.
All four facilities are part of the Eastern Hawaii region of Hawaii Health Systems Corp.
âI feel like we’ve been very successful,â said Denise Mackey, regional hospital administrator for critical access hospitals and long-term care.
Mackey said administrators continue to push the vaccination.
âIt’s not like we’ve had that little push and kinda stopped,â she said. âAll the staff who were not vaccinated, we continued to provide education. We continued to encourage them and provide alternative options. When the Johnson & Johnson (single dose) came out, we gave it away. This way people had choices. I think it helped.
According to Mackey, new regulations from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services state that only unvaccinated staff should be tested monthly.
âSo every time we do these monthly tests, we again provide education and offer the vaccine. “
The easing of travel restrictions also helped influence the staff who were still on the fence, Mackey said.
Mackey, however, said many female staff members chose not to be vaccinated on the advice of their OB-GYN.
Initially, there were questions about the safety of vaccines if a person was pregnant or breastfeeding, although the evidence now suggests that vaccines are safe for those who are, she explained.
Additionally, Mackey said there might be a “small subset of staff at probably every facility,” as well as some residents, who might not be interested in vaccines for other reasons.
âThe vaccines will hopefully protect against serious illness and hopefully against hospitalization and death, but it’s not foolproof,â she said. ââ¦ I’m happy we’re opening, I’m happy we can have more inside and outside visits. I’m glad we can have more group activities and kind of try to open up our facilities, but there’s always that part of me that stays cautious, wanting to make sure we’re rolling things out at a measured pace. and we do things safely, so we do it right. We promote quality of life, but we also have safety in mind and I think in the end we will be successful.
At the Hilo Life Care Center, about 80% of employees have been vaccinated against the coronavirus.
“We are concerned about vaccination rates among staff,” Executive Director Mark Mann said recently. âWe sent informational videos distributed by Life Care Centers of America to employees via SMS. Of course, we respect everyone’s right to choose, but we want to be sure that we’ve given them all the information possible to make an informed decision.
But those rates have gone up.
âInitially, 65% of our staff were on board with the vaccination,â Mann said. âOver time, those who were on the fence slowly get vaccinated. We see a handful per week of people who previously refused vaccination. As such, our staff rate is very close to the rate mentioned by HAH.
As more people are vaccinated and are doing well, some of those who hesitated have let their guard down, he said.
âWe try to keep the discussion going, provide education and ongoing awareness of the benefits – especially as a worker in a collective setting. “
Additionally, Mann said 191 of 201 residents, or about 95%, had been vaccinated by the end of June.
Email Stephanie Salmons at [email protected]