On a small island with limited resources, we have worked together as a community throughout the pandemic to quickly contain COVID-19 outbreaks. With the delta variant still a threat, and now with flu season upon us, health experts urge Lanai residents to remain vigilant and continue to get vaccinated and encourage ohana to do so as well.
Jared Medeiros, associate medical director and family nurse practitioner at Lanai Community Health Center, and Dr. John Janikowski, family practice physician at Straub Medical Center – Lanai Clinic share a few tips on how to navigate the current state of the pandemic on Lanai.
Getting vaccinated is still the best line of defense
The delta variant is more contagious than the original COVID-19 strain and easily transmitted, causing more hospitalizations and higher mortality rates throughout the state. Since Lanai does not have an ICU and resources are limited, health experts say that vaccinations are the best line of defense against the deadly disease. COVID-19 vaccinations are safe and effective at preventing severe illness caused by the virus and can also help protect people around you, particularly those unable to get vaccinated.
Medeiros explains that although the community has done a good job with following guidelines during the pandemic, Lanai’s older population remains vulnerable to infection due to the housing situation and close-knit community. Since the start of the pandemic, there have been 139 confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Lanai, according to the State Department of Health.
“On Lanai, we have a multigenerational community, so it’s not uncommon to have large families together under one roof,” explained Medeiros. “We are all connected one way or another, so we all have to do what we can to minimize the spread of COVID-19.”
While it is still unknown exactly how long protection lasts for those who are vaccinated, COVID-19 vaccine booster shots are becoming available for some populations who completed their initial series at least six months ago. Eligible groups may include those who work in high-risk settings or have underlying medical conditions.
“Don’t let your guard down. Continue to take precautions, wear your mask and social distance,” adds Dr. Janikowski. “Expecially be careful about travel. Lots of places aren’t as well covered as we are and if in doubt, get tested and don’t wait because the sooner you find out, the easier it is to manage.”
Vaccination appointments still available
Everyone age 12 and older are eligible for free COVID-19 vaccination regardless of health insurance status. Lanai Community Health Center and Straub Medical Center – Lanai Clinic offer the Pfizer, Moderna, and the J&J COVID-19 vaccines, as well as flu shots.
In the coming weeks or month, we may have FDA approval for a Pfizer vaccine for kids under the age of 12. “With in-person classes, kids are in close contact with each other and at risk,” noted Dr. Janikowski. “We are anticipating that vaccines for children under age of 12 will be approved soon.”
While the attention is turning to booster shots, eligible Lanai residents who have yet to receive their first or second doses, should sign up as soon as possible. According to Department of Health statistics, over 70.1% of Lanai’s population has been fully vaccinated, which is one of the highest vaccination rates per population in the state.
“I think Lanai is doing well,” explained Dr. Janikowski. “We have a high percentage of people vaccinated and more people trickling in. If we get to 90%, that is going to be great.”
Flu season is here
Vaccination to prevent flu and its potentially serious complications is particularly important during a pandemic and on an island with limited health care resources. “It’s important to make sure you are vaccinated not just for the coronavirus but also the flu,” explained Medeiros.
“We can all do what we can to minimize the spread of disease through vaccination for coronavirus and flu shots.” He noted that while the focus is on COVID-19 right now for those 12 and over, it’s important to make sure other keiki who are not yet eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine are still up to date on their other important vaccines.
Reflecting back and looking forward
Our island healthcare workers remain optimistic that the vaccine and health mandates are helping to get the pandemic under control. On Lanai, different healthcare facilities have also worked together in unprecendented ways to protect our community, and this partnership coupled with the adoption of video and telephone visits have helped ease the burden even during the height of the pandemic.
“Healthcare workers on Lanai have responded not only appropriately but go above and beyond,” reflected Dr. Janikowski. “We know our patients not only as patients but as friends, neighbors and community members.”
To request an appointment for the COVID-19 vaccine or flu vaccine, please call the following:
Lanai Community Health Clinic: 808-565-1919
Straub Medical Center – Lanai Clinic: 808-565-6423