Lt. Gov. Josh Green is urging the Department of Health to extend COVID-19 vaccinations to residents 16 and older by May 1.
He is pushing for those 55 and older and people with high-risk medical conditions, including caregivers, to begin inoculations March 28, followed by residents 45 and above starting April 18. That way, by May 1 the state will be able to open immunizations to anyone 16 and older with a priority on those in congregate living situations. President Joe Biden has directed states to allow all American adults to be eligible for shots by May 1.
“It’s imperative that we meet the goal the president has set for us to open up vaccinations for every adult in Hawaii who wants one by May 1, and we are supporting our Health Department to get that done,” Green said. “Expediting the vaccination program is saving lives, and that’s our job right now.”
The Health Department did not promise outright to change eligibility guidelines, but said it is “excited about the prospect of being able to offer vaccines to all adults as soon as possible.”
“The Department of Health bases eligibility decisions on the data surrounding current and projected vaccination numbers, appointment availability and, most importantly, upon the amount of vaccine allocated and available to the people of Hawaii,” said DOH spokesman Brooks Baehr. “We are optimistic greater supply in the coming weeks will facilitate a faster pace.”
Health officials recorded one new coronavirus death — a Maui man in his 50s with underlying medical conditions — and 99 infections, bringing the state’s totals since the start of the pandemic to 452 fatalities and 28,608 cases. Of the state’s total infection count, 823 cases are considered active.
The new statewide infection cases include 49 on Oahu, 37 on Maui, seven on Hawaii island and six Hawaii residents diagnosed outside the state. The statistics reflect new infection cases reported to the department Wednesday.
Hawaii reached a significant milestone in the battle against COVID-19 this week, administering more than a half-million vaccines as of Wednesday. However, three months into the state’s vaccination campaign, only 8.8% of Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders have been immunized, though they represent more than 40% of COVID-19 cases in the islands.
Asians have the highest immunization rate, with 25.4% receiving at least one shot, followed by whites at 19.2%, Blacks at 6.4% and other races at 1.9%, according to new DOH data released this week. The information does not include inoculations given by the military.
However, Tripler Army Medical Center, which acts as a clearinghouse for vaccine distribution for much of the military population in Hawaii, said 48,324 beneficiaries received their first dose and 30,290 received their second dose as of Wednesday.
Vaccine data on Filipinos, who are disproportionately affected by the disease at 19% of total infections, was not available because they are combined in the Asian category.
On Friday the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention COVID data tracker reported 587,465 total doses administered in the islands, at a rate of 41,491 doses per 100,000 residents. The total includes vaccinations by the military and U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.