When to expect the next phases of the COVID vaccine

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine reached Hawaii this week but it could still take months for most people to receive a dose, although 80,000 health care workers could have access to the vaccine within the first month.

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The first phase of the state’s COVID-19 vaccination plan is broken down into three phases: 1A, 1B and 1C. Medical workers who are at high risk of exposure to the virus are in front of the line.

Lt. Gov. Josh Green who is also the state’s COVID-19 Healthcare Liaison said, the general public could have access around mid-next year.

Green said, “I think 1A will take about six weeks, we will do phase 1B and 1C in parallel. I’m hopeful we can get to phase two sometime in February and March.”

Once healthcare workers receive the vaccine, phases 1B & 1C would include essential workers like first responders and people over 65 years old. While Phase Two of the vaccination plan would expand access to people with chronic illnesses. Green said there are also discussions to include populations impacted harder by the virus.

Green said, “You want to focus on the people who have the highest mortality rate, you want to bring that way down because then you have extra hospital capacity.”  

The CDC and other federal agencies are proposing the Vaccine Administration Management System (VAMS) an online management system for vaccine sign-ups.

“They’re still making sure that will work well for people. But that would be a one-stop shop for people to sign up for partners to sign up,” Green said. “As we get into those groups, it will be much easier because we’ll be able to have people receive an email or a text that they’ve signed up.” 

Once more vaccines are available to wider groups of people, vaccination sites and pharmacies would be locations where people could be inoculated.

The third phase of the vaccine plan includes young adults, children and people at lesser risk of catching the virus, which could be reached by May or June.

Green said 70% of the state’s population would need to be vaccinated to reach herd immunity when the majority are immune to the virus.

“Should be probably about two million doses because most of the vaccines are going to be two shots,” Green said. “Federal government will be covering the cost of that and the insurance companies will cover the administrative costs.”

HMSA’s President and CEO Dr. Mark Mugiishi said in a statement they are collaborating with the state on the vaccine’s rollout.

“We’re also working closely with the Hawaii Department of Health (DOH) and our provider network to prepare to distribute the vaccine effectively and appropriately,” Mugiishi said. “HMSA will cover the costs of administering the vaccine.  Helping our members find information and access to the vaccine is our top priority.”

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