Question: I have been trying to get the COVID-19 vaccine for my farm employees. I filled out the Department of Health survey, emailed DOH, and called the call center numerous times only to be told to be patient. It has been nearly three months. Now the DOH has opened phase 1c and farmers are in 1b. It seems I have lost my place.
Answer: You were one of several employers who contacted Kokua Line last week, concerned that you’d never heard back from the Health Department after filling out a survey for employers trying to schedule vaccine appointments for front-line workers who have been working during the pandemic.
Here’s the Department of Health’s response, from spokeswoman Janice Okubo:
“Front-line essential workers in Phase 1b are still being vaccinated, and no one should feel they have lost their place in line or opportunity for vaccination. The phases overlap and larger groups that have completed an earlier online survey and were asked to provide a list of names and email contact information, are being scheduled for vaccination. Other Phase 1b essential workers, individuals, or smaller groups that completed the survey and were not contacted may schedule their vaccinations directly with one of the sites listed at hawaiicovid19.com/vaccination-registration/. In addition to Phase 1b, essential workers in restaurants, bars, and hotels are also being scheduled for vaccinations at this time. Those in this group may have a vaccination clinic arranged through their employer, or individuals may schedule directly with one of the sites listed on the website and chose their location and vaccine. The online survey for employers received more than 15,000 submissions and was closed on March 12.”
When you contacted Kokua Line on Tuesday, we encouraged you to schedule appointments directly — not to wait to hear from the DOH. You reported back that you were able to do so. We also forwarded your concern to the Health Department. On Thursday, you received an email from DOH saying that the vaccination expansion to phase 1c as of last Monday meant the department was “moving away” from using employer surveys as a scheduling tool and that you and your employees should self-register. By then you had done so.
By Friday, the department had also updated Hawaii’s COVID-19 online portal to say “companies and organizations with front-line essential workers are no longer required to complete an online survey.” The update explained what employers who had submitted the survey by March 12 should expect:
>> “If your organization previously completed an online survey and was asked to provide a list of names and email contact information, we will still honor these submissions. Please be assured that vaccinations for these (organizations’) employees are being scheduled.”
>> “If you completed the online survey but have not been contacted by the Department of Health and you are in an eligible group for vaccination, then you may now schedule your vaccinations directly with one of the sites” listed on the portal, 808ne.ws/vacreg. (The full link is spelled out earlier in this column).
As you said in your question, food production and agriculture workers are among the many categories of Hawaii employees and residents who are eligible to be vaccinated — and have been for many weeks. Anyone who is eligible and wants to self-register should try multiple sites if the first one they check has no appointments available. Several readers pointed out that Longs/CVS has expanded its vaccination sites; there were 23 statewide when we checked Friday and most had appointments available for people who met the restrictions.
Confirm eligibility and availability and make an appointment at https://www.cvs.com/immunizations/covid-19-vaccine. Additional locations were expected to be added by today.
Write to Kokua Line at Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Honolulu 96813; call 529-4773; fax 529-4750; or email email@example.com.