HONOLULU – The Hawaiʻi State Department of Health (DOH) is stepping up its statewide campaign to encourage college students to get vaccinated for the H1N1 virus. People 18-24 years old have been hit disproportionally hard by the virus in the United States. Targeting the week of January 10-16, the first week of the new term for most Hawaiʻi college campuses, the Lingle-Aiona Administration – led by the DOH – has partnered with the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa (UH Mānoa), Brigham Young University- Hawaiʻi (BYU- Hawaiʻi) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to vaccinate potentially thousands of college students.
“Influenza is a highly contagious disease, and flu season in Hawai‘i requires our year-round vigilance,” said Lt. Governor James R. “Duke” Aiona, Jr. “Limiting the spread of seasonal flu and H1N1 influenza has been the result of unprecedented collaboration across various levels of government and the private sector.”
As of yesterday, 620,000 H1N1 vaccine doses have been allocated to Hawaiʻi. Of that amount, 418,040 doses have either shipped or are in transit to Hawaiʻi for providers, representing 67 percent of Hawaiʻi’s total allocation.
“The supply has finally caught up with the demand, and starting Monday, we will be able to offer the H1N1 vaccine to anyone who wants it,” said State Department of Health Director Chiyome Fukino, M.D.
Protecting Hawaiʻi’s keiki is a top priority for the DOH. Since the start of the current flu season, it has set aside 77,460 doses for school clinics. So far, 48,304 students in 285 schools have been immunized for the H1N1 virus.
Even though Hawaiʻi has not been hit by a “second wave” of H1N1-related illnesses and deaths as seen on parts of the mainland, health officials say it’s too early to breathe a sigh of relief.
“Many people think it’s over, but it isn’t,” said State Epidemiologist Sarah Park, M.D. “This is what we’ve been talking about in terms of pandemic. It’s not just a one point in time. It goes on and it comes back in waves.”
China, the world’s most populous nation, has seen a decrease in the number of H1N1 cases in major cities. But the virus continues to spread in villages and smaller communities, according to the China Health Ministry.
Because harsher winter months are approaching and many Chinese are expected to go home for the Lunar New Year holiday next month, health officials are expecting the virus to continue spreading in China.
Hawaiʻi remains vulnerable as long as the H1N1 virus continues to circulate among the international community. This is why Hawaiʻi health officials say the best way to protect the public from the H1N1 virus is to get vaccinated.
The DOH and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention encourage everyone to get vaccinated for the H1N1 virus.
The Lingle-Aiona Administration also strongly believes that vaccination is the best way for the people of Hawaiʻi to stay healthy. Therefore, Governor Linda Lingle and Lt. Governor Aiona issued a proclamation today declaring the week of January 10-16 “Influenza Vaccination Week” in Hawaiʻi.
School clinics at UH Mānoa and BYU- Hawaiʻi next week will focus on vaccinating students. They will open it up to other members of the community the following weeks.
Anyone who wishes to get the H1N1 vaccine may do so by contacting your health care provider or call Aloha United Way’s 2-1-1 hotline for more information.