Officials outline how Hawaii would distribute a COVID-19 vaccine

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Updated: Oct. 22, 2020 at 2:22 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The governor and state health officials offered a preview Thursday into how a COVID-19 vaccine would be distributed in Hawaii ― once one is approved.

One major takeaway: The vaccine will likely be in the form of two shots administered four weeks apart.

And given the limited doses available at first, the first group of people to get the vaccine will include healthcare workers and those at highest risk of severe symptoms from COVID-19.

“We’re looking at vaccinating 700,000 to 800,000 people,” said Gov. David Ige, in a news conference. “When the vaccine becomes available, it will be a monumental task."

The state submitted its draft vaccine distribution plan to the CDC last week. The plan includes information about who would be considered high priority to get the vaccine.

Under the plan, the first people to get the vaccine would include:

  • High-risk healthcare employees at hospitals, nursing homes or in direct patient care;
  • First responders who have high risk for COVID-19 exposure;
  • and residents of all ages who have underlying health conditions, including those 65 and older who live in congregate settings are also included in this first group.

The second priority group would include teachers, those in jails and prisons, homeless shelters and other congregant settings, residents at moderately high risk, and everyone 65 and up.

The third group includes younger people and employees not previously covered.

And the fourth group would include all Hawaii residents who haven’t been vaccinated.

At least 60% to 70% of population would need to get vaccinated in order to achieve herd immunity, breaking the transmission chain for the virus, said state Health Director Dr. Libby Char.

The discussion comes as researchers continue their race to find a COVID-19 vaccine. Some have said a vaccine could be approved before the end of year, but distribution would present its own hurdles.

The vaccine will be free to residents. But the logistics of distributing the vaccine will be significant.

The state’s vaccine planning group is looking at everything from how to find enough syringes, needs and PPE to distribute the vaccine to how to get it to the community in mass vaccination clinics.

Ron Balajadia, immunization branch chief at the state Health Department, estimated that it will cost as much as $25 million to distribute the vaccine in the islands.

Balajadia added the state will also do its own work to ensure the vaccine is safe. “We will not support any vaccine that has not been held to the same rigorous standards as other vaccines,” he said.

This story will be updated.

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