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Hawaii News | Kokua Line

Kokua Line: Do I have to add my booster shot to Safe Travels?

Question: Do I have to add my booster shot to my Safe Travels account? Am I supposed to upload my CDC card again, showing the booster?

Answer: No and no. You are referring to the digital platform travel. hawaii.gov, through which eligible arriving airline passengers may seek a COVID-19 vaccine exception to Hawaii’s 10-day quarantine. Currently, the standard vaccine regimen — before boosters — suffices for Safe Travels and for the Hawaii SMART Health Card, a vaccine verification system that resides on the same digital platform. Here’s the full response from Douglas Murdock, Hawaii’s chief information office, who runs the state Office of Enterprise Technology Serv­ices:

“Any traveler who is fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in the United States or U.S. territories is only required to enter their vaccine information that includes two shots of Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or one dose of Johnson & Johnson in Safe Travels. The vaccine document uploaded to Safe Travels would only need the corresponding information. The state does not require booster shot information in Safe Travels, at this time. The uploading of the vaccine document that includes the booster shot in Safe Travels is not necessary.”

Q: Did the city expand the vaccine options for Safe Access O‘ahu?

A: Yes, acceptable proof of vaccination for the Safe Access O‘ahu program has expanded to include COVID-19 vaccines authorized or approved by the World Health Organization, according to the Honolulu County website oneoahu.org. When the program began Sept. 13, only U.S.-authorized COVID-19 vaccines were accepted.

We followed up with the mayor’s communications team to ask when and why this change occurred, but did not hear back by deadline.

Safe Access O‘ahu requires Honolulu County restaurants, bars and some other businesses to screen customers and employees for COVID-19, by requiring proof of vaccination or a negative test for the disease.

To be clear, this expansion does not apply to the separate Safe Travels program for air travelers entering Hawaii, according to Hawaii’s COVID-19 portal, hawaiicovid19.com. The vaccine exception to quarantine currently applies only to domestic travelers fully vaccinated in the U.S. or its territories (with the Pfizer­-BioNTech, Moderna or J&J vaccine), it says.

On a related subject, we continue to hear from readers asking whether Safe Travels will adapt to align with the United States’ reopening to international tourism on Nov. 8. We’ve asked the governor’s office and relevant state agencies but received no specific updates by deadline. A news release from the governor’s office Tuesday said “the state continues to seek information from the federal government about its plans for international travel and will have an appropriate plan in place prior to Nov. 8.”

Although many details have yet to be released, the U.S. State Department says the new federal policy will allow foreign tourists who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 with a U.S.- or WHO-authorized vaccine. Fully vaccinated air travelers also would be required to present a negative COVID-19 test before boarding the flight, while those crossing the U.S. border by land would not; this discrepancy is being hotly debated at the federal level, according to national news reports.

As we said, Safe Travels’ current vaccine exception does not apply to international tourists. International arrivals from a few countries can avoid Hawaii’s 10-day quarantine by presenting a negative COVID-19 test, but the testing options are limited.

Q: Why isn’t Gov. David Ige opening up now that we’ve hit 70%?

A: Prior to the delta variant, the governor had said Safe Travels and other COVID-19 restrictions would expire when Hawaii reached a 70% vaccination rate. However, he retracted that pledge with the deadly delta surge, which strained Hawaii’s hospitals, and has since said there is no single benchmark that would cause him to lift restrictions en masse. As of Tuesday, 70.4% of Hawaii’s population was fully vaccinated, a total that rose to 82.4% when only the population eligible to receive the vaccine was counted (people 12 and older), the portal said.


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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