The state Department of Health on Friday released an updated summary of its COVID-19 vaccination plan on how the vaccine eventually will be made available to all Hawaii residents by the end of summer.
Since mid-December the state and its partners have been administering vaccines under Phase 1-A of the plan, which includes health care workers at hospitals and residents and staff at long-term care facilities. Those categories are estimated to be 6% of Hawaii’s population of about 1.4 million.
On Friday evening the department said more than 35,000 vaccinations had been administered statewide and that Hawaii had received 91,700 vaccine doses statewide, with an additional 17,550 ordered for delivery next week.
Phase 1-B includes kupuna 75 and up, along with front-line workers including corrections officers, educators and critical transportation and utilities workers, estimated to be about 20% of Hawaii’s population.
The department did not have specific dates for the rollout of Phase 1-B, but said details on how seniors 75 and older can register for vaccinations can be expected as soon as next week. In addition, the locations and opening dates of large pods — or points of dispensing — of the vaccinations will be announced soon.
Phase 1-C includes ages 65 to 74, along with persons 16 to 64 with high-risk medical conditions, as well as other essential workers, estimated at about 47% of the state population.
Finally, Phase 2 includes the rest of the population — anyone ages 16 and up that was not in any of the previous categories — which is expected to begin in early summer, depending on the federal allocation of doses.
The department said based on the estimated number of people in each of these priority groups, 73% of the state’s population will receive the vaccination by the completion of Phase 1, while the remaining 27% will be covered in Phase 2.
The phases can overlap, as well, and in each phase the oldest residents will receive first priority, the department said.
“We are continuing to devote our full attention to ensuring we have a robust and orderly rollout of our vaccination program,” said state Health Director Dr. Libby Char in a news release. “Our plan prioritizes the vaccine for those who come into direct contact with the virus and those who are at higher risk for severe COVID-19 infections, and disability or death. The safe and orderly rollout ensures we operate efficiently to minimize waste of the dosages and to enhance patient safety.”
Some hospitals, meanwhile, are preparing to make COVID-19 vaccines available to their patients.
Kaiser Permanente is currently vaccinating its health care workers, who are receiving their second set of shots of the Pfizer vaccine, as well as independent health care workers who do not necessarily have to be members, in coordination with the Health Department.
Dionicia Lagapa, director of clinic operations at Kaiser, said preparations are underway to notify those in the Phase 1-B category of the availability of the vaccine next week, with a target start date of Jan. 18.
She said Kaiser will use an e-ticket or e-visit system for its members, who will be able to schedule appointments online, with other options for those without internet access. During the pandemic, she said, many members, including kupuna, have become familiar and comfortable with online services and telehealth opportunities.
Andrea Eshelman, deputy director of the Hawaii State Teachers Association, said educators and school employees on Kauai are expecting to get vaccinated as early as Monday, thanks to extra availability on the Garden isle.
For teachers on other isles, the expected start date is in late January or early February as part of Phase 1-B. More than 40,000 are expected to be vaccinated, she said.
The Kauai District Health Office said more than 3,000 on the Garden Isle had received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and that hospitals there would announce detailed plans for those age 75 and up on Monday.
After offering the vaccines to educators and child care workers Monday, Kauai County officials said the vaccine will be available later this month to essential workers in food and agriculture, manufacturing, grocery stores and the postal service.
Gov. David Ige said Friday on Spotlight Hawaii that he thought the vaccine rollout has gone smoothly, so far.
“I do think the vaccine rollout has gone very well here in the islands,” said Ige during the Spotlight interview. “We obviously would want more vaccinations. We know there’s a lot of anxiety, and we want to get people vaccinated as quick as possible.”
Part of the challenge of the rollout, he said, is that the state gets short notice on quantities to be delivered on a weekly basis. The state finds out Thursdays how much will be delivered the following Monday or Tuesday.
Lt. Gov. Josh Green on Thursday urged residents to put a temporary pause on any social gatherings for two weeks, saying that a ramp-up in vaccinations was expected in mid-January.
On Thursday the state hit a record high for the new year, with 322 new confirmed cases. It was the most since mid-August, when the number spiked to 355, and has been attributed primarily to holiday gatherings. On Friday the case count remained high, at 264 infections, with four additional deaths, boosting the state’s totals since the start of the pandemic to 22,895 cases and 303 fatalities.