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Hawai‘i Ramps Up Effort to Vaccinate 81,000 People This Month

by Thunda

At an afternoon news conference, Governor Ige, Health Director Dr. Elizabeth Char, and other stakeholders laid out the first steps of Hawai‘i’s COVID-19 vaccination effort. This includes plans to distribute an expected 81,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccinations in December to high-risk health care workers and long-term care facilities across the state.

Earlier today, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee recommended Emergency Use Authorization of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. This recommendation must be adopted by the FDA, which is expected in the coming days.

Pfizer will pre-position the first shipment of 4,875 doses of vaccine in Hawai‘i, but providers will not be able to begin to vaccinate groups in the first phase until the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) provides guidance on who can be vaccinated. ACIP guidance is also expected in the coming days.

“This pandemic has cost Hawai‘i residents so much—the lives of loved ones, our health, and our economic security,” said Governor David Ige. “The recommendation by the FDA panel to approve the Pfizer vaccine is a vital step in keeping our situation from becoming worse and beginning our road to recovery. Once final approval is granted, I am confident in DOH’s ability to distribute vaccines across Hawai‘i.”

Dr. Char commented, “However, we know that our work is just beginning. After months of planning, we are prepared to join with our partners to distribute the first shipments of a vaccine. As there will not be enough vaccine for everyone at first, we must first care for those who cared for us—essential healthcare workers and kūpuna in long-term care facilities.”

The first phase of Hawai‘i’s COVID-19 Vaccination Plan is divided into three groups:

  • Phase 1a – Essential healthcare workers
  • Phase 1b – Essential workers
  • Phase 1c – 65 years and older and adults with high-risk medical conditions

The Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is scheduled to be evaluated by the FDA committee on Dec. 17. If approval is granted, Hawai‘i is expected to receive 36,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine, in addition to nearly 46,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine in December alone.

Essential health care workers will be vaccinated at Points of Dispensing (PODs) across the state. Vaccinations will be administered to long-term care facilities through a federal partnership with Walgreens and CVS. Both vaccines require a two-dose regimen. The second dose must match the brand of the first dose.

Additional vaccine supply is expected in the first half of 2021.

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