About 94 percent of kupuna 75 years-old or older responding to AARP Hawai`i’s online vaccine questionnaire say they have received at least at least one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine, suggesting that the state’s effort to vaccinate kupuna has been successful in reaching those who are computer-literate.
“What’s not clear is how successful the state has been in reaching those who do not have computer access or who have disparities as being home-bound or having limited English-language proficiency,” said Keali`i Lopez, AARP Hawai`i State Director.
More than 500 people responded to the questionnaire, which was distributed last week by email to people who have responded to previous AARP advocacy emails. It was also publicized on the AARP Hawai`i Facebook page and through news stories. Those who responded tended to be older, with a highest number of responses from the 75+ age group. The respondents are also likely to be computer-literate and have email addresses since the survey was online. The questionnaire responses are not scientific and have not been adjusted to reflect state population characteristics, but they do provide a general view of how kupuna feel about the vaccination process and their experiences with it.
As of Tuesday, the state’s vaccine dashboard showed, by county, that between 44 and 73 percent of those 75 and older in Hawai`i had received at least one vaccine shot with Maui having the lowest percentage of 44 percent vaccinated and Kauai having vaccinated 73 percent of kupuna 75 and older. Oahu vaccinations were at 73 percent.
“We were struck by the difference between what the state’s data shows about vaccinations of kupuna and what kupuna responding to our questionnaire are telling us. One explanation may be that kupuna who have not been vaccinated are harder to reach and not as computer literate,” Lopez said. “We have a high population of immigrants for whom English is not their first language. We also have home-bound kupuna, who may not be able to get to a vaccination site, and those who are not comfortable making appointments online.”
Q: Have you received your first vaccine shot?
A surprising number of respondents 74 and younger answered yes, they had gotten at least one shot before the state opened vaccinations up to everyone 70 and older, including:
65% of the 74 to 70-year-olds.
62% of those 69 to 65
60% of those 64 and under.
Q: How did you try to schedule your appointment?
20% Health Provider
5% State/County office
3% Friend or relative helped
Q: How easy or difficult was it to get an appointment?
58% Somewhat easy/Very easy
42% Somewhat difficult/Very difficult
Comments from people who responded to the questionnaire suggest that many younger kupuna were able to get vaccinated because they are essential workers. Others said that their doctors, health care provider or POD (point of distribution vaccine site) were able to identify them as having a medical need for the vaccine and were able to schedule a shot even though they were not officially in a priority group. Some were veterans who get their healthcare through the Veterans Administration, which has been vaccinating members 65 and older since last month.
An overwhelming number of kupuna 75 and older (77 percent) said it was easy to make an appointment for a vaccination. Younger kupuna complained that it was difficult to make an appointment because they are not eligible. The comments from younger respondents also show a growing frustration that they are unable to be vaccinated while friends, both here and on the mainland, are getting their vaccinations.
“AARP Hawai`i is listening to our members and we continue to urge the state Department of Health to allow the 65+, and even those 60 and older and 50 and older, to get vaccinated sooner rather than later,” said Lopez. “We have been working with the state and with state and county agencies and nonprofits to identify hard-to-reach kupuna and the homebound so that they can also benefit from the COVID-19 vaccine. We hope those efforts get the priority and resources they deserve and are also rolled out sooner, rather than later. No one should be left behind.
“We would like to see more transparency about the vaccination process. The state should release data on how many people are being vaccinated by age group and by essential worker categories and do a better job of explaining who is an essential worker and who should qualify for vaccinations because of high-risk medical conditions,” she continued. “We think the state can do a better job of explaining how the vaccination process is working and where it works and where it may not be working well.”
AARP is continuing to collect questionnaire results at action.aarp.org/hivaccinesurvey. We will also push out another questionnaire next month to see if responses are changing and will report the results.
Sample of comments from respondents by age group:
“I asked my primary physician how to schedule. … He scheduled it the next day and my wife and I got the vaccination.”
“There’s no easy way to assess the risks & get shots in arms. … I worry about isolated kupuna & their caregivers whose first language is not English & how they can navigate the convoluted appt systems. First & foremost, transparency & communication in how vaccines are distributed. So much misinformation! We need lots of trained health workers out in the communities assisting with vaccines!”
“This should be done at once; my wife is 71 and in very poor health and needs the vaccine asap.”
“I think it’s ridiculous that those with severe health conditions such as myself cannot get vaccinated in Hawaii when the vast majority of other states are doing it.”
“The state has to really re-study how they are rolling out the vaccine. I keep reading that kupuna are the most at risk and comprise a majority of COVID patients in hospitals; yet, I am not eligible to receive the vaccine until the next phase, while others who are younger than me, are able to receive the vaccine (i.e. the state legislature). To me, that is a major contradiction, and it is no wonder that many people have no faith in our state government leadership.”
“Keep slowly working on age groups as per CDC guidelines. I am hoping that when it is my turn to get vaccinated that my 69 yr old husband can get his shot too as he has chronic lung conditions & needs surgery He needs to be vaccinated sooner than me.”
“Just do it. Especially for those like me with COPD and wife working as an essential worker and grandchildren in school living with me. They can bring it home to me so people like me should be priority and bypass the age tier.”
“Hawaii is doing well regarding prioritization. I was surprised when my clinic called to schedule me as I am 66.”
“I’m 65 with kidney and heart failure and can’t get an appointment, however all the employees at my small veterinarian’s office were able to be vaccinated! And, my friend said they were offered the vaccine at her work at one of the big resorts. Ridiculous!
50 to 64:
“We, as a community, should exercise more patience with our decision-makers. They try so hard, and someone is going to get pushed to the back of the line, they are having the most difficult time trying to please everybody.”
“In a word – FRUSTRATING! I scheduled an appointment for my father online with Maui Health in January. The VAMS system was not user friendly, and you couldn’t tell what appointments were available. You had to keep clicking on times to see if it was actually open. When I finally found an appointment, the system seemed to book it automatically. I wanted to look for an earlier appointment but was afraid of being left with no appointment. … My father will be getting his 2nd shot next week, a full 2 months after I started this process.”
“I am 100 percent disabled in a very high-risk group and I keep trying to either get a vaccine or get scheduled on a registry to get a vaccine. State and health providers will not schedule people ahead of who they are currently vaccinating, and they keep dumping more people in front of me. … They keep finding new “essential workers” and it seems like any employer can deem any of their workers as essential, even when they are not. But there in nobody standing up for totally disabled people who are living on disability and/or pensions because we don’t have bosses to vouch for us. I feel like I am being discriminated against for being disabled and under the age of 70.”
“The state should continue to strike a balance between kupuna & essential workers. They should consider kupuna below 70 who babysit as essential workers. They should also consider those who are caregivers to kupuna as essential workers. Workers” should not be defined as only someone does their job for pay.”
“It is not a question of balance. In Hawaii “essential” is just about anyone. The state is rationalizing a dangerous and frankly evil policy with misinformation. The vaccines reduce severe illness and death but are not known to reduce transmission. They are most effectively used to protect the vulnerable, who the State has placed at the end of
the line. … I am not sure if I need to leave the state to get vaccinated. I would have been already in any other state in the U.S.”