HONOLULU (KHON2) — Some of Hawaii’s inmates are getting vaccinated while essential workers and senior citizens outside of prisons are doing the same. The state tells KHON2 half of the inmates on Oahu and Maui who qualify at this time have decided to get vaccinated.

The Department of Public Safety told KHON2 in January, health care staff started vaccinating inmates on Oahu who currently qualify under Phase 1B.

Inmates who qualify under 1B are those 75 and up and those who are at the highest risk of complications if they catch the virus. The state also started administering shots to those who qualify on Monday, Feb. 22, at Maui Community Correctional Center.

The public safety spokeswoman says:
“We are currently coordinating with DOH on the rollout of vaccine distribution for inmates who currently qualify on Kauai and Hawaii Island beginning in early March.”

The state tells KHON2 corrections facilities have a history of disease outbreaks or clusters. About 1,000 inmates in the state have recovered from COVID-19 and There are currently 26 active cases.

The Healthcare Association of Hawaii (HAH) said, the risk is higher for people in settings like long-term care facilities. This also includes places such as prisons.

“The other thing we need to consider is that when prisoners get sick and they need to go to hospital, then there’s a cost that society pays to doing that. And so we end up paying that cost,” said Hilton Raethel of HAH.

Raethel said, Hawaii could see 70 to 74 year olds who are part of 1C start scheduling for vaccinations in one to two weeks.

“We want to ensure that we get the rest of those essential frontline workers vaccinated. That includes teachers, for example, want to ensure all of our teachers get vaccinated. So as soon as we get through that, through those groups, we can then move into 1C,” he said.

Raethel says vaccine supply is increasing which will help the state move faster through the phases.

“The good news is that now we are getting information two to three weeks in advance as to what’s available, and so that helps as well,” he said. “And that will allow us to do more concrete forward planning.”