Hawaii prioritizes 1C category, doses available on Monday


HONOLULU (KHON2) — Hawaii will move into the 1C phase of its vaccination plan starting Monday, March 15.

About 500,000 people fall under the 1C group and health officials said they do not want to open up to everyone all at once.

They will continue to prioritize those who could suffer from severe COVID-19 symptoms first.

Adults 65 and older, those with specific chronic medical conditions — including people who are on dialysis, individuals who are on supplemental oxygen — and patients who are undergoing chemotherapy or immunosuppressant therapy can book an appointment to get vaccinated now.

“There are 85,000 people in Hawaii that are 65 to 69 years old, and then there are a few thousand people that are younger, that have these serious health conditions,” explained Lt. Gov. Dr. Josh Green.

The state will move to people with other chronic conditions once the 65 and older and those with severe medical conditions are vaccinated.

Healthcare Association of Hawaii CEO Hilton Raethel explained there are 350,000 people statewide who fall into that sub-category from ages 16 and older.

“That includes people who smoke, people who are obese, people with high blood pressure people with transplants, it’s a huge range of individuals and conditions,” he explained.

“So instead of trying to rank all of those and say this one is more important than the other one, what we decided to do, and this is working with a group of healthcare professionals across the state across all the islands, is just carve out those very high-risk conditions, and then we’re just going to go in reverse age band,” he explained.

The Department of Health said, age dictates an individual’s at-risk level — therefore it will play a role in who gets vaccinated first.

People with chronic illnesses will be eligible for vaccine by age in descending order.

Raethel said, it will start with people 60 to 65, then those with chronic illnesses who are 55 to 60, continuing downwards.

“Now, the reason we’re doing five-year age bands, as opposed to 10-year age bands, is just to make it really simple so we don’t get a flood of people coming through,” he said. “If we do it in five-year age bands, we’ll get through each of those age bands very quickly, then move on to the next one, and age bands are really easy to check. Someone just brings in their license and says, look, here’s my license. This shows you how old I am. And you can get vaccinated, so it makes it much simpler.” 

Essential workers will be next once that group is completed but there is no set date on when they will be eligible to sign up.

“Some of the sites have already booked up for the next two to three weeks with 65 and older and other essential frontline workers, so they filled up very quickly, so it will take a few weeks to get through the rest of the essential workers, and these people with high-risk medical conditions,” Raethel added.

Lt. Gov. Green is aiming for Thursday, April 1.

“I think by April 1, all those other groups should be going, and then I think May 1 will be the date when everybody can start getting vaccinated, where we open up to everyone, that’s what it’s starting to look like and the director of health has to make that determination,” Green said.

Individuals who are trying to book an appointment online but do not fall under the sub-category should be aware that several vaccine centers are now requiring proof of age or occupation.

“We’ll ask them for information and that they verify their essential worker status,” explained Dr. Doug Kwong, who works at Hawaii Pacific Health Pier Two. “Same for those with medical conditions we might be asking them for some qualifications on their medical condition.”

Queen’s Health Systems will also require verification at check-in at Blaisdell. Those who do not qualify will be denied and their appointment will be canceled.

The DOH said, essential employees have been notified to get their vaccine and employees should continue to register for the vaccine through their employers.

Health officials want to remind people to be patient as the state waits on more vaccine supply.

The state is slated to receive about 65,000 Moderna and Pfizer vaccines the week of Monday, March 15, while no Johnson & Johnson vaccines will arrive next week.

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