High school kumu have varied COVID-19 vaccine experiences


Photo by Savannah Rose Dagupion

Ms. Ching goes over what it was like to get the COVID-19 vaccine, gesturing to where she got it and sharing how she felt afterward.

High school kumu have been receiving the COVID-19 vaccine doses after Maui Health opened up available vaccines to essential frontline workers on tier 1B on January 1. Tier 1B of the state’s vaccine distribution plan includes teachers.

For some, getting the vaccine was quick and easy, but for others, there were complications due to the shortage of first-round doses. 

Mr. Kealii Mossman says that his appointment was pushed back until, first, an unknown date in early February and then, late February–possibly. As soon as Maui Memorial Medical Center gets another shipment of first-round vaccines, they will reschedule those who were put on hold as of January 16.

On Monday, however, the Hawai’i State Department of Health reached out to schools regarding a revised process to vaccinate kumu. This involves the schools sending in a list of interested teachers, and, as vaccines become available, these teachers will be contacted for appointments.

Mr. Mossman and many others continue to wait.

On the other hand, some kumu were able to secure appointments prior to the shortage. For Kumu Kapulani Antonio, Mr. Jay Paa and Ms. Vanessa Ching, the process was seamless. 

“The email from administration came out saying that if we wanted to get the vaccine we could, so I signed up right away … I went to the medical center, got it done within 15 minutes, and now I am waiting for my second one,” Mr. Paa said. “It was quick and easy.”

Kumu Kapulani said that “it’s just like any other shot; it’s not that painful. As far as how I felt after, my only thing was that my arm was sore for a couple days. … Maybe I felt a little tired, but aren’t we all tired all the time?” 

Naturally, people are worried about the side effects of the vaccine, but as essential workers surrounded by students all day, many KSM kumu are looking at the bigger picture. 

“Some people are concerned about the safety of the vaccination, but I was more concerned about getting COVID than the side effects of the vaccination,” Ms. Ching said. 

“Getting the vaccine, first of all, I’m all for [it]. I wanted to do it just to do my part to protect me but also to protect everyone else because I’m a teacher, frontline, essential. There was a little apprehension only because the approval of the vaccine was fast-tracked … but when I went to get the vaccine, it was really smooth,” Mr. Paa said. 

Most kumu were unconcerned about the science behind the vaccine. 

“I wasn’t worried, but I did do research, so I knew what it was, and I felt comfortable with it. Some people feel nervous because they think these vaccines came out so fast, but the truth is we’re an advanced society … things happen quickly now because we have access to more information, so I felt confident in it,” Kumu Kapulani said. 

As for side effects, kumu have reported that they’re feeling fine, and there has been nothing to worry about. 

“So far, I haven’t grown a third eyeball or eleventh toe–which I wouldn’t mind because I think it would help me climb trees a lot faster. … but I’m fine so far so I am not worried,” Ms. Ching said. 

With much unknown about the COVID-19 vaccines, wearing masks, practicing social distancing, and following COVID-safe protocol is still strongly recommended for everyone, whether they’ve received the vaccine or not. 

“I think [the vaccine] is worth it, but everyone has their own opinion, and I feel like if you practice safety guidelines and be considerate of others–be clean, wash yourself, take the necessary vitamins and minerals–that can also be helpful, and you should do that even though you get the vaccination to protect yourself from other germs, colds, and viruses,” Ms. Ching said.