Hawaii’s Filipinos Among Lowest Vaccinated in State; Let’s Trust the Science, Get Vaccinated

Kudos to the residents, state and public health officials of Hawaii for ranking in the top tier nationally (fluctuates daily between 10-14) for the highest percentage of vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the CDC data tracker.Gov. David Ige wants to push for vaccination harder, declaring the month of June Vaccinated Month. For June only, the Department of Health and its partners will have 300 locations across the state to get vaccinated. In addition to the normal places offering vaccines, they will be targeting public places like beaches, malls and farmers markets. The June program is laudable and our residents should take advantage of this added convenience.

As of June 11, 53% of Hawaii’s residents was fully vaccinated while 60% had at least one dose. Health experts say the herd immunity threshold — when a significant portion of a population becomes immune to an infectious disease – is reached when between 70-90% of a population is vaccinated.

The Mayo Clinic explains it this way: “a percentage of the population must be capable of getting a disease in order for it to spread. This is called a threshold proportion. If the proportion of the population that is immune to the disease is greater than this threshold, the spread of the disease will decline. This is known as the herd immunity threshold.”If people are still doubtful of the efficacy of vaccines, remember that vaccination programs have successfully controlled contagious diseases such as smallpox, polio, diphtheria, rubella and many others.

State Survey, Filipinos have lowest vaccination rate
While Hawaii is on its way toward achieving a goal everyone has been hoping for since the outbreak of COVID-19, there is still work to be done.

According to a new DOH poll, specific segments of the state’s population are underperforming in getting vaccinated.

Our very own Filipino community, along with Native Hawaiians, are behind in vaccination rates. Only 40% of Filipinos in Hawaii are vaccinated, 49% for Native Hawaiians. Compare those rates to Japanese (71%) and Caucasians (68%).

The survey also found Hawaii’s populations with lower vaccination rates are young adults under 35 (55%) compared to seniors at 92%; households with incomes less than $50,000 (55%) compared with 78% for households with incomes above $100,000; and non-college educated (47%) compared with college educated 75%.

The state should be targeting these groups behind on vaccination in addition to their general population campaigns. Working with active organizations within these subgroups will help to raise confidence in vaccination. In the case for Filipino outreach, Hawaii’s Filipino media would be a good avenue for the state to get their vaccination message across to our community.

Incentives, less restrictions
For the state-recognized June Vaccinated Month, private businesses are offering discounts and prizes in travel, entertainment, restaurants and professional services (see a complete list at www.higotvaccinated.com).

Perhaps more importantly, the general public should know that as soon as more residents are vaccinated, this means more restrictions will be lifted and the state could move closer to business as usual.

For example, Gov. Ige said at reaching 55% vaccination, inter-county travelers will no longer be subjected to testing and quarantine rules; at 60% those vaccinated traveling domestically can bypass testing and quarantine requirement; at 70% all travel restrictions will be lifted. Also at 70%, restrictions on businesses and the indoor mask mandate will also be dropped.

These are goals to benefit travelers and ultimately our Tourism industry and local businesses. But we must reach that finish line together. Reaching these benchmarks is in sight.

Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi said, “We’re almost there. Let’s get there. This is going to be the hard part ― down the home stretch.”

Stress that vaccination is good for your health
Besides the emphasis on vaccination being key to ending state restrictions and offering discounts and opportunities to win prizes as incentives — it should be drilled over and over that getting vaccinated will benefit the individual by greatly reducing his or her chances of getting sick or dying from COVID-19.

At some point, the remaining non-vaccinated will be those who are not getting it not because of inconvenience or scheduling difficulty. That remaining group will be people convinced vaccination doesn’t benefit their health (in fact could cause harm it) or those who have religious reservations against it. And we don’t know how large this group is at the moment and whether they could prevent the rest of the state from achieving herd immunity threshold.

This is why the scientific, health benefits reason for vaccination must be stressed above all other incentives. We cannot under stress that COVID-19 is still a very dangerous health risk. A very concise health explanation we can tell friends or family who still do not trust getting vaccinated is this: “Getting the vaccine will help your immune system to fight against Covid if it is exposed to it. This will keep you from getting sick.” Very simple.

Let’s trust the science. We’re almost where we want to be. Let’s get vaccinated and be done with COVID-19.

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