With more vaccine shipments on the way, Hawaii health officials are expanding the pool of people eligible to receive a COVID-19 shot by including Hawaiian residents aged 70 and over as of Monday. That’s a week earlier than their original March 15th estimate.
Hawaii Department of Health officials said Wednesday the move was due in part to an increase in federal government vaccine shipments as well as federal emergency approval of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
On Wednesday, Hawaii received the first shipment of 11,900 doses of vaccine developed by Johnson & Johnson’s vaccines division, Janssen Pharmaceuticals.
Those doses are included in the at least 67,000 doses expected by state officials for the federal government to ship by the end of the week. That’s an average of about 40,000 cans sent to Hawaii every week for the past month.
According to Dr. Elizabeth Char, director of the Department of Health, officials are also considering expanding the funding pool to include the 65+ cohort as supply has increased.
“We will be closely monitoring how quickly vaccines are used and can be opened in a couple of weeks to people 65 and older and people in phase 1c,” she said in a video announcement distributed to media outlets.
The state originally intended to include people 65 and over from March, but demand for the vaccine exceeded supply in the first few months of the rollout.
The first phase of Hawaii’s rollout – 1a – was aimed at long-term care residents and healthcare workers. The current Phase 1b originally only included people age 75 and older, as well as key frontline workers or people who are required to work within 6 feet of the public or their employees in industries deemed critical by the state.
The fact that people only need one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be a game changer, Char said.
The vaccine also does not require ultra-cold storage. The vaccine was found to protect 66% against moderate to severe COVID-19 infection and 85% against serious illness.
“This is going to be really beneficial for some people, especially those trying to get immunity as soon as possible,” said Char.
Kristen Bonilla, spokeswoman for Hawaii Pacific Health, emailed Civil Beat that health organization staff were ready to vaccinate more people at their Pier 2 vaccination center. The center has more than 1,300 appointments available this week, she said.
Kaiser Permanente officials said there are hundreds of appointments available this week, particularly at Kaiser Moanalua Medical Center and Nanaikeola Clinic in Waianae. Another 1,000 appointment slots are available on March 13 for a mass vaccination event in the Kaiser Mapunapuna Medical Office, which is open to people in categories 1a and 1b of the vaccination phase.
Hawaii recorded two COVID-19 deaths and 20 new infections on Wednesday, including 11 in Maui, eight in Oahu and one in Kauai. Over the past week, an average of 41 new cases were registered every day.
Only 1% of people nationwide tested for COVID-19 last week had positive COVID-19 results.
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