Hawaii’s COVID-19 Vaccination Plan Is Under Way

by Jim Bea Sampaga

With the announcement of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna, the whole world is hopeful that the key back to normalcy will be available in a year.

“Epidemiologists say at least 60 to 70 percent of the population need to have immunity to a virus to break the chain of transmission,” said Governor David Ige in a press release. “We want Hawaii to be ready as soon as a viable vaccine that is safe and effective becomes available.”

The COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer and Modern require two doses. The Pfizer vaccine is administered three weeks apart, while the Moderna vaccine is four weeks apart.

The vaccines will need an approval from the Food and Drug Administration in order to be available to the public. Experts and officials expect the vaccine to be available next year.

“A COVID-19 vaccination has been presented as our ticket to better health and restoration of a sense of normalcy,” said Department of Health (DOH) director Dr. Elizabeth Char. “We have to make sure we get this right, starting with using a safe and effective, FDA-approved vaccine.” 

As the world anxiously waits for the final updates on the vaccine, the State of Hawaii has created a COVID-19 vaccination plan to utilize the expected limited first supply of the vaccine.

According to the press release, the vaccine will be available first to those who fall under the priority groups.

The first group includes high-risk healthcare workers such as COVID-19 ward health workers and first responder, and high-risk Hawaii residents of all ages with underlying health conditions and those aged 65 and older who live in group households.

The second group includes K-12 teachers and school staff and workers in essential industries such as nursing homes. Homeless shelters and prisons are also in this group category.

The third group covers children, newborn to age 17, and young adults from 18 to 22 years old. It also covers the rest of essential industry workers who were not mentioned in the second group.

The fourth group includes all Hawaii residents who were not part of the three previous priority groups.

In an informational briefing last month, DOH immunization branch chief Ronald Balajadia said the vaccination plan is a “living document” that adapts to Hawaii’s needs. The vaccination plan includes addressing safety and efficacy concerns, providing support to hard to reach rural and remote areas of the State, and working closely with hospitals, pharmacies, community health centers and other providers.

The Hawaii COVID-19 vaccination plan is still in its planning stages and are expected to change as more information on the vaccine distribution becomes available. The draft plan is available to read on hawaiicovid19.com.

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