WAILUKU, Maui (KHON2) — Following the latest data on COVID-19 vaccine effectiveness against the omicron variant, Maui County decided that booster shots will be required for people to be considered fully vaccinated.

This new qualification will be going into effect on Saturday, Jan. 8. However, Maui Mayor Michael Victorino’s office has yet to declare how this will impact county workers, as well as the county’s Safer Outside program.

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“The mayor is changing the emergency rules for county-related rules to include a changing to the definition of fully vaccinated to include a booster shot for those that are eligible,” said Sandy Baz, Maui County managing director.

The change comes as the state is lagging with 25% of eligible residents boosted, while 79% of the eligible population are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.

“The booster shots seem to be lagging, and I’m not entirely sure,” explained Dr. Elizabeth Char, Department of Health director.

“I think some of the answers we were hearing when we were trying to get to the bottom of that was that it’s the holidays and people didn’t want to get a shot because they didn’t want their arm to be sore over the holidays, or just weren’t aware of just how necessary it is when we’re dealing with omicron.”

Dr. Elizabeth Char, Department of Health director.

Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi is not ruling out changing Safe Access Oahu to include booster shots to qualify as being fully vaccinated.

While imploring residents to get boosted on Wednesday, Dec. 29, he also promoted incentives to get boosters.

“One thing we do with our own City and County employees, and I’ve been encouraging other businesses, is we’re going to give everyone a day off — which is not a small thing — to get a booster,” Mayor Blangiardi said.

Dr. Char added that requiring boosters for some of the state and county COVID programs would benefit public health, but it is a delicate balance.

“I think from a public health standpoint, it absolutely makes sense. This omicron has sort of shifted what we know, and the transmissibility and how it’s operating. And so I think our guidance is trying to accommodate that and shift as well so that we are up to date on it and it makes sense,” Dr. Char said.

Gov. David Ige said it would take two weeks to change the Safe Travels program to require boosters.

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“The Safe Travels system is a complex system, and we are also evaluating the point at which we would end the program. So, there are many decisions that we’ll be making over the next few days,” Gov. Ige said.