Shipments of COVID vaccines to Hawaii are slowing as demand drops dramatically

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – The state Department of Health declined more than half of its federal allocation of the Pfizer vaccine this week as demand for the shot continues to decline.

Health officials say Neighbor Island hospitals will not receive doses at all. That’s because they struggle to get rid of what they already have.

“When it comes to our adult population, demand has decreased,” said Hilton Raethel, director of the Healthcare Association of Hawaii.

He said hospitals – and their vaccination clinics – mainly use the Pfizer vaccine. The last time the state accepted its total weekly allocation of just over 44,000 doses was over two weeks ago.

Records show that Oahu received about 36,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine on May 16, while the neighboring islands received just over 8,000.

Since then, the numbers have taken a nosedive.

This week the state rejects more than 60% of its total allotment. Oahu only asked for 16,000 cans. The neighboring islands have not placed any orders at all.

“For two weeks in a row, this week and next, none of the neighboring islands ordered the Pfizer trays,” said Raethel. “Now a few more Moderna are being distributed on the neighboring islands, but these are relatively small amounts.”

US Department of Health spokesman Brooks Baehr said the focus now and in the coming weeks is on “generating more demand.”

As part of this, the country plans to launch an incentive program to boost vaccinations. The state is expected to reveal the details on Friday, but will likely include gifts from dealers and airline miles.

“Beyond the incentives, we really want to generate interest by sharing good credible scientific information about how safe these vaccines really are,” said Baehr.

There are also plans to expand access.

DOH officials say 185 vaccination events are planned this month. That’s in addition to the more than 200 locations that already exist.

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