State leaders mull who should be prioritized in next phase of vaccine distribution

Updated: Feb. 19, 2021 at 11:03 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - As COVID vaccination hubs continue to immunize front line workers and kupuna 75 and over, state leaders are trying to decide who should be next.

“We have two separate committees working on this,” said Lt. Gov. Josh Green.

Under the state’s vaccination plan, the next group of residents eligible for the vaccine ― those who fall under Phase 1C ― includes adults ages 65-74, those with underlying medical conditions and other essential workers. The group is nearly three times the size of Phase 1B, with 400,000 people.

That’s why officials are planning to prioritize within the group.

“We’re going to focus on giving vaccinations by decreasing age,” Green told Hawaii News Now. “We would do five-year blocks or 10-year blocks so as not to make it too complicated.”

He says health officials also want to prioritize people over the age of 16 who suffer from certain chronic diseases. “Some of the early discussion points were individuals who have the following: They are actively getting chemotherapy, they require oxygen or who are dialysis dependent,” he said.

The discussion comes as Hawaii sees its immunization efforts slowed by a nationwide vaccine shortage made worse by severe weather that’s delayed shipments of thousands of doses bound for Hawaii.

The delays have forced some clinics to cancel appointments this week.

As demand for the vaccine grows, many residents are practicing their patience while those who are most vulnerable are placed at the head of the line.

“I can see them needing to use a tier system,” said Chinatown resident Luana Love.

Kailua resident Paul Cunny added, “Anybody who’s got a serious illness they should have it if their doctor approves it.”

Reached Thursday, the state Department of Health declined to answer questions on who the the health director believes should be first to get vaccinated under Phase 1c. “We’re are not going to discuss expanding the pool of those eligible for vaccines today,” a spokeperson said.

DOH will have the final say in the state’s distribution plan.

An official announcement is expected in the coming weeks.

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