‘A hopeful moment’: Hawaii preparing to receive first COVID-19 vaccine doses soon

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Updated: Dec. 11, 2020 at 4:54 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The state’s plan to acquire and distribute a coronavirus vaccine ‘may be the largest immunization campaign in the history of our state,’ Governor David Ige said Thursday.

In a press conference from the state Capitol on Thursday, Gov. Ige and other state officials ― including Lt. Gov. Josh Green and Dr. Libby Char, the director of the state Department of Health ― detailed the Health Department’s plan to both acquire and distribute a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as one has been approved by the federal government.

There was significant movement toward that earlier in the day, when a U.S. advisory panel recommended that the FDA grant emergency use authorization to Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine.

“This pandemic has cost Hawaii’s resident so much. Every day, I feel your pain,” said Gov. Ige. “But today marks a hopeful moment in the fight against this pandemic.”

Gov. Ige says the state will begin by acquiring just more than 81,000 doses of the vaccine over the course of December. The Department of Health, meanwhile, has already laid out who the vaccine will be made available to first.

Healthcare workers and both residents and employees of long-term care facilities ― which have been ravaged by the coronavirus across the country, including here in Hawaii ― will be a part of what the Department of Health is calling ‘Phase 1′ of the vaccine distribution plan.

Other priority individuals who work in high-risk environments, including first responders, will also receive vaccines as part of Phase 1.

Phase 2 of the plan includes ‘critical populations not included in Phase 1,’ according to Dr. Char.

And Phase 3 of the plan involves the distribution of the vaccine to the general public.

The coronavirus vaccines are expected to require two doses ― an initial injection, and then a second dose that needs to be administered several weeks later.

Health Department officials say the federal government is working on supplying 81,000 additional doses, which means that the state will be able to vaccine 81,000 people, instead of giving 40,500 two injections each.

And the cost to the state, it appears, will be minimal, since the federal government is paying for the cost of the vaccine, according to Lt. Gov. Green.

“The insurance companies have agreed already to cover those costs,” said Lt. Gov. Green. “We felt very strongly that people should not have to get or not get a vaccine based on their economic state.”

Delivering the vaccine to Hawaii could prove challenging, especially for Pfizer’s vaccine, which requires what is known as ‘ultra-cold’ storage ― temperatures just above 0 degrees Fahrenheit.

Health industry leaders say vaccine developers have been hard at work developing delivery solutions, especially with regard to locations like Hawaii that require considerable longer shipping times.

“Pfrizer has been working for months to ensure that there is safe distribution of this vaccine across the country,” said Hilton Raethel, the president & CEO of the Healthcare Association of Hawaii. “They have developed cold storage containers and have worked out a system where they will shipped across the country.”

Both of the state’s highest elected leaders said they planned on taking the vaccine.

”I trust the science and plan to be vaccinated as soon as I am able,” Gov. Ige said.

”I will also take it, when my turn comes up,” said Lt. Gov. Josh Green, who works as an emergency room physician.

This story will be updated.

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