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Hawaii News | Kokua Line

Kokua Line: Can younger adults get the Pfizer booster?

Question: My granddaughter works in a job that has her dealing with different people all day face to face. She is what I would call a front-line worker but not a nurse or anything like that. Unfortunately, she is also quite a bit overweight. She got the two shots of Pfizer a long time ago and wears a mask at work. I have been asking her to please get the booster shot, but she says it’s for seniors. Is that true?

Answer: No, not exclusively. From your description, your granddaughter is eligible to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine booster shot, based on having a job that increases her potential exposure to the disease, a condition (obesity) that makes it more likely she would get very sick if infected, and the fact that she completed her primary Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at least six months ago.

Hawaii’s Department of Health has prioritized Pfizer boosters for people 65 and older and those 50 to 64 with underlying medical conditions; the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says those groups should get the booster if they received their second dose of the Pfizer vaccine at least six months ago. However, people 18 and older with underlying health conditions and those 18 and older whose jobs put them at increased risk may get the booster (the distinction is between should and may). Hawaii’s Health Department has said there is sufficient supply for those who wish to do so.

You can see a list of eligible workers on the CDC website at 808ne.ws/booster. It’s a broad group that includes food, manufacturing, agriculture, education and public transit workers, along with first responders such as health care workers, police, firefighters and others.

As far as COVID-19 vaccines are concerned, the state Health Department’s top priority remains reaching eligible residents who have yet to initiate or complete their primary COVID-19 vaccine series. As of Monday 107,064 eligible people had received no dose, and another 117,469 had initiated but not completed their vaccination, according to DOH estimates provided by the governor’s office.

Another 207,482 Hawaii residents were not vaccinated because they are under age 12 and not yet eligible. Federal health officials are expected to decide by early next month whether to authorize use of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in children ages 5 to 11.

More than 91% of Hawaii’s eligible population had received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine as of Thursday, according to the state’s COVID-19 portal.

Q: You said some people with Safe Travels accounts automatically get the Hawaii Health SMART Card, but I didn’t (I was relieved). I did wonder why not.

A: There are numerous reasons this might occur. To be electronically verified, the person must have been vaccinated in Hawaii, and their record must be verifiable through the state database, according to Hawaii’s COVID-19 portal, hawaiicovid19.com. Some people who clear the first hurdle fail the second because their COVID-19 vaccine provider doesn’t participate in the state database, the portal says. “Entities not submitting data into the state database include Department of Defense, Department of Veterans Affairs, selected federal agencies (those who have received federal vaccine), and some pharmacies under the long-term care facility program (nursing homes, skilled nursing facilities, etc.),” it says.

Sometimes data entry errors prevent electronic verification, such as the name on the Safe Travels account not matching the name on the uploaded vaccine document. The state has tips for fixing those types of problems, which you can read at 808ne.ws/smartcard.

We’ve heard from other readers like you, who prefer to keep a picture of their CDC card on their smartphone to show Oahu businesses that require proof of COVID-19 vaccination for entry. Others mentioned placing their CDC card in an inexpensive plastic sleeve, which made them feel more comfortable carrying it around in their wallets. Either method is acceptable for the purposes of the Safe Access O‘ahu program; the digital pass is not required.


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 kokualine@staradvertiser.com.


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