Hundreds vaccinated at Hilo POD

  • Courtesy of Cyrus Johnasen/Office of the Mayor Mayor Mitch Roth received the Johnson & Johnson single-shot COVID-19 vaccine today at the Edith Kanakaole Multi-Purpose Stadium in Hilo.

  • Kelsey Walling/Tribune-Herald An employee walks through a line of people waiting in line for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at the Edith Kanakaole Multi-Purpose Stadium in Hilo on Tuesday, March 16, 2021.

  • Kelsey Walling/Tribune-Herald An employee checks information for people in line for the Johnson & Johnson vaccination at the Edith Kanakaole Multi-Purpose Stadium in Hilo on Tuesday, March 16, 2021.

  • Kelsey Walling/Tribune-Herald Jeff Mukai checks-in Ashley Keawe for her vaccination appointment at the Edith Kanakaole Multi-Purpose Stadium in Hilo on Tuesday, March 16, 2021. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine was distributed to about 850 people Tuesday.

The state Department of Health on Tuesday hosted its first mass vaccination clinic in East Hawaii utilizing the Johnson &Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.

Hundreds of people were vaccinated after waiting in line at the Edith Kanakaole Multi-Purpose Stadium.

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According to District Health Officer Eric Honda, about 850 people had signed up to be vaccinated Tuesday.

After receiving an email from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Waikoloa resident Gary White immediately signed up for the first vaccine clinic he could find on the island.

“I didn’t really care what vaccine I received, so it was really easy to sign up for an appointment,” White said. “I just wasn’t ready for the long lines.”

While appointments were scheduled for 10-minute intervals, most people had to stand in line and wait more than an hour to register and receive the vaccine.

“I’m not a fan of walking and standing in line because I have a really bad hip,” White said. “When I saw the line, I went back to my car and brought my little seat.”

While it didn’t matter which particular shot he received, White was glad he ended up getting the Johnson &Johnson vaccine.

“I like the idea of having one shot and not standing in this line again,” White joked.

According to Honda, there were no walk-ins, and everyone had to have an appointment to be vaccinated.

Mayor Mitch Roth received the single-shot vaccine during Tuesday’s POD, or point of distribution, as well. Roth qualified for the vaccination as an essential worker under Phase 1B of the state COVID-19 vaccination plan.

“I was honored to embrace my kuleana as a public servant and proud community member by getting vaccinated today,” Roth said. “We are so close to beating this, and I encourage everyone to continue doing what you can to stop the spread and keep our community safe.”

DOH Immunization Branch Chief Ron Balajadia said during a telephone town hall discussion hosted last week by AARP Hawaii that the single-shot Johnson &Johnson vaccine is different from vaccines manufactured by Pfizer and Moderna, which require two doses, and is safe.

Although the state initially received 11,900 doses of the Johnson &Johnson vaccine, Balajadia said all jurisdictions throughout the country wouldn’t get any additional vaccines from the company for a few weeks.

The state DOH will continue to host weekly PODs around the Big Island for the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines.

Bob Erickson signed up for the drive-through POD to get a shot of the Moderna vaccine last Thursday at the Afook-Chinen Civic Auditorium in Hilo and was disappointed with the wait time and lack of organization.

“It was a disaster. I had a 10-minute time slot and waited for over two hours to get the vaccine,” Erickson said. “There weren’t enough vaccinators, and no one had any answers as to what the problem was.”

Erickson wished for more urgency among the staff, as well as a more streamlined registration and vaccination process.

Erickson has an appointment to receive his second dose of the Moderna vaccine April 8 at the same location.

People ages 65 and older, health care workers, individuals with chronic medical conditions that put them at high risk if infected with COVID, front-line essential workers in Phase 1B, and essential workers in Phase 1C are all eligible to receive the vaccine.

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For more information on eligibility and registration, visit https://hawaiicovid19.com/vaccine.

Email Kelsey Walling at kwalling@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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