Approximately Three Dozen People Turned Away from Maui Drive-In Vaccination Clinic, Invited to Return on Wednesday
By Wendy Osher
An estimated three dozen people in the 1B priority group for vaccinations were turned away from getting a shot at a drive-in clinic hosted by the Maui District Health Office at the University of Hawaiʻi Maui College on Monday as confusion set in over registration procedures, priority groupings, and differences in where expanded service was being offered.
Out of the 750 people who showed up for the clinic, Maui District Health Officer, Dr. Lorrin Pang said 90 percent were from outside the clinic’s priority group, which was still attempting to finish vaccinations for those in the 1A priority grouping (which includes health care workers and long-term care facility residents).
The site had started a rollout of vaccinations for first responders (who fall into group 1B) two days before Christmas, as supplies became available, but were not anticipating the rush of individuals that showed up on Monday–which he called a “massive crowd” that included others in the 1B category like young teachers, grocery store workers, and independent elderly residents 75 years and older, who were not connected to a congregate setting.
Earlier in the week, Governor David Ige had announced that in addition to Phase 1A, the state was ramping up distribution of vaccine to those in Phase 1B. Hawaiʻi Lieutenant Governor Josh Green had projected the second week of January as a time when the federal government and their supply chain could give Hawaiʻi more vaccine for the transition, and encouraged those who qualify to monitor the state’s hawaiicovid19.com website for updates on registration.
Meantime, a separate clinic, hosted by Maui Health at the Maui Memorial Medical Center was ready to move forward and had expanded their clinic on Friday to include vaccinations for Hawaiʻi residents that fall within the CDC identified Phase 1A and Phase 1B vaccine prioritization timeline.
As the hospital expanded its offerings, instructions were provided on how to register, which included requesting an appointment on the CDC’s VAMS site (a process that was published on our own Maui Now site).
But many of those who registered ended up at the drive-in clinic instead of the hospital.
Dr. Pang said, the Maui District Health Office clinic at UHMC left their site ‘open’ on the VAMS platform with the intent of meeting the needs of some 140 ‘stragglers’ from the 1A grouping who had not yet received the vaccine. By doing so, the intent was to provide an opportunity for those individuals to get the vaccine if they changed their mind.
“But low and behold, we left ourself a little bit susceptible,” said Dr. Pang, noting that under the platform there were other unexpected issues as well. He said a woman from California who had registered out of state and sought the vaccine here, was able to get a dose at the Maui drive-in site.
He said the problem appears to be that once you register on VAMS, you can request a shot anywhere.
“All I ask is that the CDC have a little bit awareness that I’m trying to hold my shots” he said, for people that are in a higher priority grouping. “They’re elderly, by themselves, they’re not tech savvy. And when you let in other people, they will just swamp it and take up the space,” said Dr. Pang.
Maui Mayor Michael Victorino said that individuals who qualify under the hospital’s expanded service to 1B groupings, should select Maui Health or Maui Memorial Medical Center as their site on the VAMS system for the time being. That way, they’ll be directed to the hospital site instead of the drive-up site run by the Maui District Health Office at UHMC, which is still focused on elderly individuals in congregate settings, health care workers not connected to the hospital and first responders.
“The CDC has made some changes in their guidelines and I think this is what is making confusion out there. So I’m not blaming Dr. Pang, I’m not even blaming the people. It’s other sources that have made it a little more confusing, if you want to use that term,” said Mayor Victorino.
Instead of the 450 to 500 individuals who are vaccinated during the five-and-a-half hour drive-in clinic, Dr. Pang said an estimated 750 doses were administered on Monday. He remained optimistic saying it is possible to do twice that amount in a single day if he’s provided with a fresh team, and if there’s enough supply on hand. But that was not the case on Monday.
“So it was a little bit frightening, and I apologize to the few dozen we turned away. We thought that we could not handle. There were just too many. Then my team (said), ‘Go for it. Cover them all.’ So we did,” said Dr. Pang. For the three dozen who were turned away, he said, they may come back on Wednesday as an amends.
He also said that while there ended up being enough vaccine, there wasn’t “quite enough port-a-potties and toilets,” noting that volunteers from the college improvised by shuttling elderly residents to fixed bathrooms on campus. He also extended a thanks to volunteers from Imua Family Services and members of the National Guard who directed traffic and have been part of the operation from the start.
“With all of that being said, Dr. Pang and I and the state and the Department of Health and the medical providers out there are working really hard to get the vaccine,” said Mayor Victorino, “Because he (Dr. Pang) will tell you, the more vaccine we get, the quicker our cases will start to reduce. I’m not saying it will stop, but it will come down.”
“I think we have a meeting of the minds. I want the people to hear that we are going to try real hard to get as much vaccine as we can get out to you and in your arms… but I’m going to say, if there’s some glitches, like any other system, please be patient and don’t go scold anybody or get upset at anybody. We are working as quickly as possible,” said Mayor Victorino.
In the meantime, 2,000 more doses arrived to the Maui District Health Office on Monday.
“So with that being said, I ask everybody that through Wednesday, let’s get the 1As and whatever others that have (shown up), come and get it done. Come Friday, hopefully we can start working on the 1Bs and do it right,” said Mayor Victorino.
“And then in the meantime, if you’re signing up with the healthcare system, you’re going to the hospital–not to Dr. Pang’s college site–so that we don’t have this confusion,” he said.
“I ask everybody to work on it, let’s be patient, and we’ll get it right,” said Mayor Victorino.