An Oahu distillery is producing hand sanitizer to fill the supply gap and provide sanitizer to hospitals, first responders, correctional facilities, homeless providers and to the state Department of Education at no cost.
On Saturday, a 55-gallon barrel of hand sanitizer rolled from the vat room of KoHana Distillers in Kunia, to staff and volunteers waiting next door in the tasting room. It was the result of an effort by Gov. David Ige and the co-founders of KoHana Hawaiian Agricole Rum, which organized a local business hui to manufacture hundreds of gallons of FDA-approved hand sanitizer for use during the current COVID-19 pandemic.
A by-product of rum distilling is high-proof ethanol, the main ingredient required in FDA-approved sanitizers, according to a press release from the Hawaii COVID-19 Joint Information Center. Ige’s administration, through an inquiry with the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, began providing guidance to KoHana Distillers and the Hawaii Agricultural Research Center (HARC) to help navigate the stringent rules and regulations required by the FDA.
The efforts connected Phillip Giacobbi of Kaumana Pharmaceutics to the hui of businesses willing to provide bottles, labels, and distribution of the sanitizer. Giacobbi volunteered his expertise and sign-off as the pharmacist-in-charge during the permitting process.
HARC has a long history of volunteer service. During WWII, the association produced and contributed the “wonder drug” Penicillin to U.S. Armed Forces. Sixty-years-later, HARC’s level-2 lab became the sterile environment for compounding the hand sanitizer.
On March 24, the FDA released new guidance that allowed KoHana Distillers to register as an over the counter (OTC) drug manufacturer and to begin preparing the hand sanitizer at its Kunia operation.
“Hawaii businesses have a long history of collaboration at times of community need. This is a great way to utilize a by-product of our distilling and to use our facility during this unprecedented crisis,” said KoHana Distillers co-founder and owner Jason Brand.
KoHana has committed to continued production and is working with the governor to create a model in which distilleries across the state can partner to produce FDA-approved sanitizer and disinfectant, according to the center.
On Tuesday, Scott Morishige and a member of the Governor’s staff made the first delivery of sanitizer to The Institute for Human Services (IHS), a primary provider of homelessness services on Oahu.
“This monumental effort by local business leaders proves that Hawaii has the community strength to persevere. We’ve been hit by disaster after disaster and yet we stand stronger than ever. It’s by working together as a community that we will weather this current crisis,” said Ige.