More than half of Hawaii residents are now vaccinated, so what’s next?


HONOLULU (KHON2) — According to the state health department, 50% of Hawaii’s population are now fully vaccinated against the coronavirus — that’s more than 1.5 million shots given.

The state health department said 57% of residents have received at least one dose.

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Health experts said 50% is good, but they want to see a higher number so the virus doesn’t have the opportunity to spread.

County mayors are also looking at vaccination rates instead of case numbers to open up more.

“There’s no magic number, but the question is, when you have enough people vaccinated or protected, to really break down the chain of transmission?” explained Hilton Raethel, Healthcare Association of Hawaii CEO.

Health experts said that is 70% on the low end, and 80-85% on the high end, especially with variants in play.

“To get to the 70% herd immunity level for eligible individuals 12 and above, we need about 120,000 more doses,” explained Raethel.

He and Lt. Gov. Josh Green believe 70% immunity could come by late June or early July.

Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi has said he’s working on restructuring the current tier system so restrictions like social gatherings would increase based on vaccinations.

“The use of vaccination milestones is very helpful, because it’s concrete,” explained Green. “And we know that those 50% of our people, which is the 700,000 individuals being fully immune, are now not, you know, running any risk of spread.”

Gov. David Ige approved of Kauai’s modified tier system this week adding a Tier 5 and 6 based on the statewide vaccination total instead of low case numbers.

“Because if we’re having lots of cases, then it’s lots of cases that we’re concerned about, then that would be happening in spite of the vaccination rate,” explained Kauai District Health Officer Dr. Janet Berreman.

Officials said they don’t anticipate Hawaii dropping its indoor mask mandate anytime soon.

“I still think there’s going to be a roll to wearing a mask indoors when you’re close to other people especially if you’re unvaccinated for some time,” explained Dr. Sarah Kemble, acting state epidemiologist. “So, I don’t see that being a thing to go, probably the last thing to go.”

Green believes more residents will get vaccinated once Pfizer gets FDA approval this summer.

“It will help,” he said. “I do not support mandatory vaccinations because I think it sends the wrong message. I think that that gives people pause and there is you know, there’s a healthy dose of lack of trust in government, I get it, but if we can lead by example and see that the science has been done, there should be no reason to wait.”

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