Gov. David Ige, Lt. Gov. Josh Green and state Department of Health Immunization Branch Chief Ron Balajadia today announced the state’s tentative plan to distribute the coronavirus vaccine once it becomes available.
Due to expected initial limited vaccine supplies, Ige said the vaccine will be distributed to people who fall within four priority groups.
>> The first group includes health care workers and first responders who are at high-risk of COVID-19 exposure, Hawaii residents of all ages with underlying health conditions including those ages 65 and older who live in congregate settings.
>> The second priority group will include K-12 teachers and school staff along with essential workers, people in homeless shelters or group homes with physical and mental disabilities. Individuals and workers in prisons, jails, detention centers, and all adults over the age of 65 and older.
>> The third priority group includes children, from newborns to those who are 22 years old. The group also includes employees in industries and occupations not considered essential but may face an increased risk of exposure.
>> The fourth priority group includes all Hawaii residents who do not fall into the previous three categories.
The Federal Food and Drug Administration has suggested that the earliest a vaccine would be available is by year’s end. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today approved the first drug to treat COVID-19: remdesivir, an antiviral medicine given through an IV for patients needing hospitalization.
The state’s plan, which still needs to be vetted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is intended to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in the state. Green said vaccinations for the state may come in the form of two shots taken four weeks apart.
“The goal long-term is to decrease the risk of people catching it,” said Green, adding that the vaccinations will be free.
Green encouraged people to continue to wear masks to avoid catching COVID-19 as he did.
Balajadia said the state estimates spending $25 million to store and distribute the vaccination through mobile and drive-thru clinics.
“We will not be putting out a vaccine that is not safe, not effective and vetted through appropriate channels,” Balajadia said.
The approved plan will eventually be posted on the Department of Health’s website.
Hawaii Department of Health today reported three new coronavirus-related deaths on Oahu and 102 new infections statewide today, bringing the totals since the start of the pandemic to 206 deaths and 14,335 cases.
The U.S. coronavirus death toll is over 222,000 today.
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The Associated Press contributed to this report.