Many state workers, even those considered essential, unsure when they’ll get vaccine

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Updated: Feb. 3, 2021 at 11:00 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Confusion and frustration lingers over Hawaii’s vaccine rollout as union leaders say state workers are upset with the lack of planning from the Ige administration.

United Public Workers Administrator Liz Ho says she wrote a letter to all employee representatives as well as Health Director Dr. Libby Char requesting that members in her union be part of Phase 1B.

“What I’ve been hearing from workers is that they’ve had to go to work every day throughout this pandemic,” said Ho. “And they just don’t know where they are in line.”

Ho said last Friday the governor sent a letter informing employees that they are collecting data on employees who are eligible for or interested in getting the vaccine.

Hawaii News Now obtained the governor’s email from sources, stating that employees should be in Phase 1 either Tier 1B or 1C.

Although it has been about a month and a half since the state began vaccinating people, Gov. David Ige says they are still working to identify priority employees for the shot.

He adds that those who have high-contact jobs or cannot telework get first dibs.

“It’s unfortunate that we can’t get as much vaccine as we want and that’s caused us to have to prioritize,” said Ige.

But Ho said some of her union members are being forgotten.

“As an example, over at the State Capitol, all of the janitors there are being included to be vaccinated,” said Ho. But said other workers, like electricians and plumbers, aren’t being included in the first group even though they are on call to assist in the building if they’re needed.

Acting state Epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Kemble says designating state employees for vaccinations is an ongoing effort.

“It’s a tremendous logistical enterprise to gather all of the different groups that fall into 1B,” said Kemble. “Make sure that we can match that to where doses are available and get people to those sites.”

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