The state is opening coronavirus vaccine eligibility to Hawaii residents 65 and older and those in the phase 1C category starting Monday.
That includes essential workers in the hospitality industry, food service, transportation, water/wastewater, construction, banking and finance, communications, energy, legal, media, public safety and public health workers, as well as 16- to 64-year-olds with high-risk medical conditions.
“This is another huge step in the ongoing effort to protect Hawaii residents from COVID-19,” Health Director Libby Char said in a news release. “We will continue to administer vaccines soon after they arrive and are pleased we can now offer shots to more people.”
Up until this week, vaccines were reserved for people 75 and older, in addition to health care employees, residents and staff in long-term care facilities and front-line essential workers.
The state began immunizing kupuna 70 and above this week after seeing registrations slowing for the older senior group.
“People 75 and above, many of them seemed to have had that opportunity and many of them were still taking advantage of it. But the kind of initial flood of applicants had stopped and registrations had stopped,” Department of Health spokesman Brooks Baehr told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. “So we saw an opportunity and we seized it. The opportunity was, let’s keep these registrations at a brisk pace. We want shots in arms.”
The number of vaccines allocated for Hawaii also increased to more than 62,000 doses this week from about 40,000 in early February.
While the state expects to receive more vaccines over time, it estimates it will take a few months to immunize the largest vaccination group.
“We still do not have enough vaccines to get to everyone right away. Everyone will have the opportunity to be vaccinated but phase 1c is a very large proportion of the community, so we ask that people continue to be patient as the vaccination program continues to gain momentum,” Char said.
Hawaii Pacific Health, which runs the mass vaccination site at Pier 2, was already scheduling today people 65 and older online.
AARP Hawaii has been pushing the Department of Health to extend vaccinations to younger kupuna, including those 50 and older, who account for nearly 95% of the COVID-19 deaths in the islands. A recent AARP survey indicated growing frustration among younger seniors who are at high risk for COVID-19, but unable to get vaccinated.
“We must continue to prioritize kupuna and others who are more likely to suffer serious illness for vaccinations. There’s still a lot of hard work ahead to vaccinate all kupuna. The state must make sure sufficient resources and priority are given to kupuna who can’t use a computer, who are homebound and isolated, or who are immigrants who don’t speak English. They are harder to reach and must not be left behind,” Kealii Lopez, AARP Hawaii State Director, said in a statement. “The state is doing a good job of reaching the low-hanging fruit of people who can make appointments online. But we must expend more effort to climb up the mango tree and get the harder-to-reach fruit.”
Health officials recorded 60 new coronavirus infections, bringing the state’s total since the start of the pandemic to 28,081 cases. The statewide death toll remains at 448 with no new coronavirus deaths reported. Of the total infection count, 665 cases are considered to be active. The Hawaii COVID-19 vaccine summary reported Wednesday that 425,749 of the 550,250 shots received by the state have been administered.
New statewide infection cases include 30 on Oahu, 18 on Maui, eight on Hawaii island, and four state residents diagnosed outside of Hawaii, according to health officials. As a result of updated information, state health officials removed two Oahu cases from the counts.
The statistics released today reflect the new infection cases reported to the department on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi announced modifications to Honolulu’s Tier 3 reopening plan, which allows bars to reopen under the same conditions as restaurants (with groups of 10), and businesses to serve alcohol until midnight. President Joe Biden also unveiled a plan that would make all American adults eligible for a vaccine by May 1.
Register for a vaccine at hawaiicovid19.com or through health care providers statewide.