The state push to vaccinate younger Hawaii residents continues now that eligibility for COVID-19 vaccines has opened to all ages 16 and older statewide, and because the majority of new coronavirus cases has shifted to a younger demographic.
On Monday, Lt. Gov. Josh Green said that 70% of all new COVID-19 cases in Hawaii are now made up of residents under age 50.
“That’s an important statistic, and you can take that to the bank,” said Green during a Spotlight Hawaii conversation. “So we’ve seen the trend away from our kupuna getting sick, which is fantastic because that will mean less fatalities, unless (there’s) severe illness. Although, we have seen people in their 30s and 40s quite sick in the hospital.”
Additionally, Green said there has been “a very clear trend” of younger people landing in hospitals, with some on Maui having landed in intensive care units.
Green said there are fewer outbreaks at nursing facilities now, and more of these cases are coming from community spread following large gatherings.
Since the start of the pandemic, there have been six deaths, 115 hospitalizations and 5,255 cases among those ages 18 to 29, which make up about a quarter of coronavirus cases, according to the Health Department,
Some might not have serious symptoms when infected, but are suffering from long-term health effects.
On Monday health officials recorded 70 new coronavirus infections in Hawaii, bringing the state’s total since the start of the pandemic to 31,991 cases. The death toll remained unchanged at 478.
The state’s seven-day average number of cases fell slightly to 76, and the positivity rate was 1.4%.
A total of 1,161,471 COVID-19 vaccines have been administered, according to preliminary numbers reported to the state Sunday, up about 42,500 from Friday.
Green said the Health Department talked about increasing walk-in availability to make vaccinations more convenient for the younger set.
Also, the state said it will resume offering the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, starting with a vaccination clinic Thursday at Windward Community College. Appointments will also be available on May 4, 6 and 11.
On Maui, Minit Medical will offer three clinics with the J&J vaccine, with 300 available each day, Thursday and Friday in Wailuku and Saturday in Makawao.
The announcement comes after U.S. health officials Friday lifted an 11-day pause on the use of the J&J vaccine.
Federal health officials ultimately decided that J&J’s one-shot vaccine is critical in the fight against the pandemic and that the small clot risk could be handled with warnings to help younger women decide whether to use that shot or an alternative.
At the time the J&J vaccine was paused, the DOH reported having received 47,612 doses and having administered about 17,800 doses of the vaccine, with the remainder now available.
“The pause and thorough safety review demonstrates the commitment we all share in ensuring vaccine safety,” said Health Director Elizabeth Char in a news release. “We are excited Johnson & Johnson will again play an important role in the fight against COVID-19.”
Vaccination appointments are now widely available, with a slowdown in the rate at some sites.
Appointments on Saturday were filled up for the Pier 2 Vaccination Center, according to Hawaii Pacific Health.
As of Monday more than 10,000 appointments from Tuesday to Saturday were available. To improve accessibility, walk-ins will be available from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. those days this week. Hawaii Pacific Health is also extending clinic hours until 7 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday to accommodate younger residents who work or go to school during the day.
Over the weekend, The Queens’ Health Systems administered more than 5,300 doses at the Blaisdell and West Oahu sites, including residents ages 16 and 17, and has plenty of appointments available.
“Similar to what is being reported nationally, Queen’s is also beginning to see a slowdown in the number of first dose appointments being made,” said Queen’s Health Systems Chief Operating Officer Jason Chang in a statement. “Currently, we have an adequate supply of vaccine and many appointments are available at our vaccination clinic this week at the Blaisdell Concert Hall.”
For some graduating seniors, getting vaccinated might open more options for graduation ceremonies this summer.
‘Iolani School partnered with Safeway to offer a pop-up Pfizer vaccination clinic on campus Friday and Saturday, with invitations extended to the surrounding community and schools as well. Many of the school’s seniors went to the clinic Friday, and 96% surveyed will be fully vaccinated in time for the graduation ceremony in early June.
Maui County also partnered with Safeway to provide graduating high school seniors and their families with a Pfizer vaccine clinic Wednesday at the War Memorial Gym in Wailuku. The county is urging the class of 2021 to get vaccinated.
Green said progress on vaccinations needs to continue at the current pace to reach herd immunity this summer — his target date being the Fourth of July holiday.
The state’s goal is to reach 2 million doses, which would translate to about a million full vaccinations out of Hawaii’s population of about 1.4 million.
“We’re making great progress,” he said. “If we can keep this progress up and keep pushing vaccines up at this clip of about 100,000 shots a week, in eight weeks or so, we’re going to be there.”
The urgency to vaccinate those 50 and under is now on, he said, to knock down the total number of cases and slow the spread of the coronavirus.
“We need to caution, if you’re young — if you’re anyone, actually — still please wear a mask until we get through this last bit of COVID, because there’s already chatter about people not wanting to wear masks, to move away from mask mandates,” said Green. “But the longer we can keep this contained while we’re vaccinating, the better.”
MORE OPTIONS FOR VACCINE APPOINTMENTS
>> Hawaii Pacific Health Pier 2 Vaccination Center, starting today, will be available for walk-ins 11 a.m.-1 p.m., this week, and extend appointments to 7 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday. Visit HawaiiPacificHealth.org/COVID19Vaccine to schedule an appointment.
>> Queen’s Health Systems appointments available at Blaisdell. Visit covid.queens.org/vaccine or call 691-2222.
>> Kaiser Permanente Kapolei Consolidated Theatre site has hundreds of appointments available this week. Visit kp.org/covidvaccine. Walk-ins accepted, pending availability.
>> Minit Medical, J&J clinics 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Thursday- Friday, War Memorial Gym in Wailuku, and 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday at Mayor Hannibal Tavares Community Center, Makawao. Visit minitmed.com/vaccination-clinic.
>> Find more options at hawaiicovid19.com/vaccination-registration.
Age of COVID-19 cases in Hawaii as of Monday
>> 0-17 years, 12%
>> 18-29 years, 24%
>> 30-39 years, 19%
>> 40-49 years, 15%
Source: State Department of Health