State develops plan for distributing coronavirus vaccine

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — State and health officials say distributing the COVID-19 vaccine will be a massive undertaking and it will be costly. But plans are being put together even though it could take several months before it is ready.

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The governor says the goal, recommended by health experts, is to vaccinate 60%-70% of the population. He says that is the way to break the chain of transmission or develop herd immunity to the disease.

“We would be interested in vaccinating 700,000-800,000 people, and so when the vaccine becomes available, it will be a monumental task,” said Gov. David Ige.

Officials say the vaccine will likely be given in two doses, four weeks apart. First priority will be given to first responders, healthcare workers, people with underlying conditions, and those 65 years and older. Second priority goes to essential workers and teachers.

Officials acknowledge part of the challenge is getting people to trust the vaccine because there are fears that it is being rushed to production. So the state has to convince people that it is safe.

“Make sure that the studies have been good enough, the safety profiles have been good enough, and the people who went through the process didn’t have side effects,” said Lt. Gov. Josh Green.

And then there is the cost. The health department says distributing the vaccine will cost at least $25 million.

“We’re looking at possible mass vaccination clinics, we’re also looking at possible drive-thru clinics, and we’re also looking at possible mobile team visits. All of those are gonna cost a lot of money,” said Ron Balajadia, DOH Immunization Branch Chief.

Balajadia adds that part of the cost will go to reaching out to the people who do not want to take the vaccine.

“If we don’t get that 60%-70%, our efforts are really to continuously go out and actually to talk to people and ask them, what are their fears, what are their anxieties of not getting this particular vaccine?” he said.

The federal government has only provided $800,000, so the governor will ask for more. The state says it has submitted a draft plan to CDC. Feedback is expected by next week, but a lot more details need to be worked out.

The order of priority for vaccination is as follows:

Group 1:

  • High-risk healthcare workers.
  • First responders with high risk of exposure to COVID-19.
  • Nursing home employees and residents.
  • Direct patient care staff.
  • Hawaii residents with underlying health conditions. 
  • High-risk individuals 65-years-old or older who live in congregate settings.

Group 2:

  • Workers and inmates in jails, prisons and detention centers.
  • People in homeless shelters or group homes with physical or mental disabilities and workers who serve them.
  • Kindergarten through twelfth-grade teachers and school staff.
  • Essential employees.

Group 3:

  • All children 17-years-old and younger (including newborns).
  • Most essential and non-essential employees in places with increased exposure to COVID-19.
  • Young adults who are 18 to 22-years-old.

Group 4:

  •  All Hawaii residents who do not have a vaccination and want one.

State officials say the vaccination plan is expected to roll out in December of 2020, with a possible vaccine becoming available as early as February of 2021.

The drafted plan is still pending a review and vetting from the Centers for Disease Control.

To view an outline of the plan, click here.

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