Hawaii health officials hopeful to meet President Biden’s May 1 deadline for COVID-19 vaccine rollout


HONOLULU (KHON2) — Three islands are moving through the COVID-19 vaccine rollout quickly.

Molokai and Lanai are almost done vaccinating residents, and starting Monday, most people on Kauai who are 16 and older can sign up for the vaccine.

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The state has until May 1 to meet President Biden’s deadline to expand eligibility to all adults.

“When the president sets these goals, we’ve said all along that it really depends on the supply we receive,” said Brooks Baehr, Hawaii Department of Health spokesperson. “But, he’s saying today that he’s going to be shipping more vaccine out more through the federal pharmacy program, so we’ve got our fingers crossed.”

President Biden announced 40,000 pharmacies nationwide will administer COVID-19 vaccines within the next three weeks — that’s up from 17,000 pharmacies.

The health department said that will help get vaccines to areas that are difficult to reach, like the north shores of Kauai and Oahu, and places like Kau on Hawaii Island.

Currently, CVS/Longs has over 30 vaccine locations statewide. Those eligible for the vaccine can make an appointment on CVS’ website or app, as they become available throughout this week at several locations.

Walgreens told KHON2 on Monday, “As part of the Federal Retail Pharmacy Partnership, Walgreens will be providing a limited number of vaccinations in 47 states and jurisdictions. Retail pharmacies participating in the program will vary by state and territory, and Hawaii is not on the initial list assigned to Walgreens. You can find more information about which pharmacies are providing COVID-19 vaccines in each jurisdiction through the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program here.”

Safeway has also added more vaccine locations throughout out the state.

“There are dozens and dozens of places around the state where people can get shots, and now the shot is more accessible than ever,” Baehr added.

Health officials said they are hopeful all adults will be eligible to sign up by May 1, but it depends on how many vaccines the state receives.

Some health officials believe the additional supply should go directly to the state and mass vaccine sites instead of the federal pharmacy program which is separate from the state’s supply.

“Our concern with this program is that the pharmacies have limited ability or size in terms of doing mass vaccinations,” explained Healthcare Association of Hawaii CEO Hilton Raethel. “The mass vaccination sites we’ve set up; the ones that are running six days a week or five days a week, all the vaccination sites can get through a lot of people in a short amount of time.”

“If you go to a CVS or a Safeway, you’re standing in aisles and you’re mixing with customers, and the pharmacists there are busy handing out prescriptions which is what they should be doing,” Raethel added. “So again, we appreciate their efforts and we appreciate the collaboration, but we are a little concerned again that this is a national a one size fits all program that may not be overly beneficial for Hawaii.”

The state health department said it will receive its highest number of vaccines next week with a large amount of one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccines too.

“The 81,260 doses that we’re expecting to receive in Hawaii, through the Department of Health and whatever is coming into the federal retail pharmacy program is going to make it that much more possible for us to reach the President’s goal of offering vaccinations to all adults by the beginning of May,” Baehr said.

The state will receive 8,400 doses of Johnson & Johnson next week.

“I’m sure that a lot of 60 plus year olds are going to be scheduling vaccines in the coming days, but if we see that slow down, then we’ll open up to 55, maybe 50, and we’re going to get some more essential workers into the vaccine pipeline very soon,” Baehr added.

The Kauai Department of Health added an additional clinic date for the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine on April 5 at the War Memorial Convention Hall from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. If additional Johnson & Johnson vaccines are received, the clinic hours will be extended to 1 p.m.

The two-dose Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are widely available.

Safeway locations in Lihue and Kapaa are opening vaccine clinics and accepting appointments now. This is in addition to existing clinics at Longs in Eleele, Koloa and Kapaa, hospital clinics at Wilcox Medical Center, Kauai Veterans Memorial Hospital, and Samuel Mahelona Memorial Hospital, and the Department of Health clinic at the War Memorial Convention Hall.

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