HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The state is preparing to launch a significant new phase of COVID-19 vaccine distribution, opening up eligibility to those 75 and older along with a host of essential workers ― from teachers to those who work on utilities to corrections officers.
The state said residents 75 and older will be able to sign up for a vaccination appointment online.
The portal to do so hasn’t yet been launched, but the state offered a vaccine information phone number ― 586-8332 ― for members of the general public and clinicians who have questions.
Meanwhile, other essential workers will start to get notified about how to get a shot. There were few details on how exactly that will work ― and which groups of essential workers will go first.
“We’d like everyone to remain patient,” said Lt. Gov. Josh Green, at a news conference Tuesday on vaccination rollout efforts. “This is our largest public health project probably ever.”
Gov. David Ige that he’s waiting his turn for the vaccine just like everyone else.
“We would all like to get vaccinated as soon as we can,” he said. “We are placing priority on those who need it the most. We do have a plan to vaccinate everyone who wants to get a vaccination.”
Officials are also trying to determine how to launch mass vaccination sites safely, providing a central location for people to get the vaccine without triggering long lines and big crowds.
The slow pace of vaccinations locally and nationally has generated concern.
In Hawaii, officials said one of the problems has been a delay in getting vaccinations in hand. The holiday season also triggered slowdowns, but authorities say the rollout is on pace to ramp up.
The vaccination distribution comes amid a worsening surge of COVID infections nationally and as Hawaii also sees a small increase in cases that officials believe is linked to holiday gatherings.
Frontline healthcare workers, first responders and the elderly or disabled living in care homes are currently getting vaccinated. The next priority group includes seniors living in the community who are 75 and up along with a long list of other essential workers, including:
- Corrections officers and staff
- Emergency services dispatchers
- Individuals essential for federal, state and local government operations
- Critical transportation infrastructure workers (such as dock workers)
- Workers in critical utilities (such as energy and water)
- Teachers and childcare support staff
- US Postal Service employees
So far, the state has gotten about 82,925 doses of the vaccine.
From those, about 26,000 people have been vaccinated in the state ― a figure that doesn’t include thousands who got the shot over the weekend, Green said.
Complicating the effort is that people must get second doses of the vaccine ― three to four weeks after getting the first.
Here’s a look at the current distribution phases under the state’s plan:
- Phase 1a started in December and is ongoing. It includes approximately 40,000 frontline healthcare workers and about 10,000 people living in long-term care facilities.
- Phase 1b is also underway and will continue through March. It includes about 109,000 residents who are 75 and older and 50,000 frontline essential workers.
- Phase 1c is scheduled to begin in March and will includes residents 65 and over, those at risk of severe symptoms of COVID-19 and essential workers. The group includes 400,000 people.
- Phases 2 and 3 include members of the general population and will start this summer.
This story will be updated.