comscore Kokua Line: Are non-U.S. vaccine cards accepted at Honolulu restaurants? | Honolulu Star-Advertiser
Hawaii News | Kokua Line

Kokua Line: Are non-U.S. vaccine cards accepted at Honolulu restaurants?

Question: I have a guest coming from Japan next month. Am I going to be able to take her out to dinner? I believe she did receive the Pfizer vaccine, but her vaccine card would be in Japanese.

Answer: You are referring to the effects of Safe Access O‘ahu, the program that screens restaurant and bar customers and employees for COVID- 19. The Honolulu County website that explains the program’s rules,, says that it’s acceptable for the Moderna, Pfizer or Johnson & Johnson vaccine to have been given outside the United States, as long as the vaccination document is comprehensible. Only those three brands are acceptable because they are used in the United States.

“For patrons/customers, the establishment should exercise reasonable discretion in accepting an official immunization record from outside the United States. One significant factor to consider is whether the document has enough English to be comprehensible or is in a language the establishment employees can comprehend,” it says.

If your guest’s proof of vaccination does not meet the program’s standards, she could be tested for COVID-19 within 48 hours before visiting a restaurant and provide a negative test result to enter, according to the program’s rules.

Q: Regarding Safe Access O‘ahu, what about grocery stores that are essentially restaurants too? Or have restaurants in them?

A: Seating areas for on-premises dining and drinking, whether indoors or outdoors, are subject to the COVID-19 restrictions, according to Honolulu County’s website and confirmed by a city spokeswoman. The grocery store doesn’t have to check every customer who enters the store, only those who use the seating area. Alternatively, the grocery store may choose to close the seating area.

“Grocery stores managing seated areas for eating are included in the Safe Access Oahu program. The same goes for businesses operating seating areas of food courts. Any establishments offering food and/or drink for on-premises consumption are included,” Brandi Higa, a city spokeswoman, said in an email Wednesday. “If a grocery store … provides tables and chairs for patrons to sit and eat, proof of vaccination/testing must be checked for any patrons who use that area, if the business chooses to keep that area open.”

Q: I know that my child’s school has a mandate for full-time teachers, but what about substitutes?

A: Yes. As of Aug. 23, Department of Education staff and volunteers have been required to be tested weekly for COVID-19 unless they submit acceptable proof of vaccination against the disease.

“This requirement applies to all HIDOE employees, including salaried and casuals/substitutes, as well as volunteers,” according to the department’s website.

In answer to another reader’s question, yes, the rule applies to parents or grandparents who want to volunteer at their child’s or grandchild’s school, Nanea Kalani, a spokeswoman for the department, said in an email.

Q: Regarding back registration fees, I thought you could store a vehicle and get them waived.

A: The storage request, which includes submitting a form and turning over the vehicle’s license plates, must be processed while the registration is current. The fee waiver is not retroactive, according to Honolulu County’s Department of Customer Services.


On Aug. 31, my husband and I were on the way home from saying goodbye to a dear friend. We stopped at Dunkin’ in Kapolei, going through the drive-thru. At the pickup window, we learned that our order was paid for by the people in the car before us. To the two ladies in the front seats, and one or two others in the back of a brown Toyota Corolla, thank you very much. Your kind and thoughtful gesture helped us get through the day. — Thankful strangers

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

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