Delayed vaccine shipments arrive, 70 and older could start getting doses in a few weeks

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — The Hawaii Health Department said the state received 49,410 doses of COVID-19 vaccines on Monday, including 34,200 doses of Moderna vaccines, and 15,210 Pfizer doses.

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The DOH anticipates 27,800 additional doses will be delivered by the end of the week.

A large chunk of that includes the delayed shipment of the Moderna vaccine due to winter storms on the mainland.

On Monday, health director Dr. Libby Char said the shipment delay resulted in thousands of vaccine appointments being rescheduled.

The state has been vaccinating the 1B group of frontline essential workers and kupuna 75 years and older since mid-January.

Dr. Char said the state isn’t ready to move to the 1C category, which includes around 500,000 people, just yet.

“What I worry about is that those who are older or not so computer savvy or maybe have transportation issues, they’re going to get pushed on the side,” Dr. Char said in a talk story interview with State Senator Jarrett Keohokalole and House Representative Linda Ichiyama. “And so it’s not just a matter of vaccinating as many people as quickly as we can, it’s vaccinating as many of the right people, as quickly as we can.”

Dr. Char said many kupuna wanted to wait and see if there were any vaccine side effects before getting vaccinated. As more and more people have gotten vaccinated, she said more people in the 75 and older group are signing up.

“So come on, if you’re going to go then let’s go get it done,” Dr. Char said. “There’s a whole bunch of people waiting. And that’s partly why I think we can open up to the 70 and older in a few weeks. That’ll encourage those who are eligible but haven’t gotten around to it yet to get around to it.”

Dr. Char said businesses who believe they are frontline essential workers can fill out a survey on the hawaiicovid19.com website and submit it to the health department. They’ll try and prioritize who needs to be vaccinated.  

“What we’re really looking at is who are the frontline essential workers who are within six feet of co-workers or the public for long periods of time, can’t telework, and critical infrastructure that kind of thing that we need in order to keep our society running,” she explained.

Because of the shipment delays, many people missed out on second doses and vaccine centers weren’t able to make as many first dose appointments as they wanted to.

“Some of our vaccination centers who did have to reschedule will be working longer this week,” explained Hilton Raethel, Healthcare Association of Hawaii CEO. “They will have to put some extra staff on because they are catching up with last week. They’re also taking care of the shots that we do for this week as well.”

Dr. Char said she’s aiming to have kupuna 70 and older begin getting vaccinated in three weeks, but it could be sooner as Moderna and Pfizer manufacturers increase their capacity and production lines.

“This week, we’re getting 23 trays, so that’s an additional approximately 3,000 doses just up the Pfizer vaccine,” Raethel said.

The state said each county can expect more doses this week and to anticipate the Johnson and Johnson vaccine to get emergency use authorization late this week or early next week, which will help ramp up Hawaii’s vaccine supply.

Starting next week, the state anticipates receiving 50,000 doses a week.

“If we can get to 80,000 to 100,000 doses a week, that’s making some very serious progress in terms of getting through into our community,” Raethel added.

It’s unknown how many Johnson and Johnson vaccines the state will receive weekly, but Dr. Char would like the single dose shots to go to areas where it’s a challenge to get a second shot.

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