AARP wants state to prioritize everyone 50 and up for COVID vaccine

HNN File Image / COVID-19 Vaccine
HNN File Image / COVID-19 Vaccine(File)
Published: Feb. 22, 2021 at 5:34 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - AARP says the state needs to act more quickly to expand eligibility to seniors, and wants the state to move everyone over 50 into a higher priority category.

Right now, seniors 75 and up are eligible for vaccinations along with a long list of essential workers. The state Health Department said it plans to expand eligibility “soon” to seniors 70 and up, followed by those 65 and older, but there’s been no firm timeline given.

Kealii Lopez, AARP Hawaii state director, said those 50 to 64 face aren’t considered a priority even though they may be at higher risk because of their age and also are more likely to be in the workforce.

Hawaii health statistics show those over 50 account for 94% of Hawaii deaths. “Those who were 50 and older have a higher risk either being hospitalized or dying from COVID,” said Lopez.

There are roughly 130,000 people in Hawaii between 65 and 74.

“As we reach more people who are 75 and older, we think it’s time to open it up more to those who are little bit younger,” said Brooks Baehr, state Department of Health spokesman. “The real problem right now is supply does not meet demand and that’s actually a good problem to have,” he added.

AARP says the state has done a good job vaccinating long-term care facilities and more than 1,600 community care homes.

Arcadia Family of Companies says it’s had a high rate of vaccination for its residents and staff.

Many have completed or are just getting their second dose.

“We are really happy because we have seen everyone has been accepting of this vaccine as one important factor in terms of keeping us safe,” said Anna Gelino, Arcadia infection preventionist.

One Kalakaua finished its second dose, but one of the challenges that remains for many long-term care homes is the limited supply of personal protective equipment.

“We’re a little better than we were a year ago, but there are areas that are still in short supply there are N95 masks that we are still short of,” said Michelle Kakazu, executive director for One Kalakaua.

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