HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - It’s being called a game-changer in the battle against COVID-19: The first one-shot vaccine.
The FDA is expected to give Johnson & Johnson emergency use approval Friday. If all goes as planned, health officials say the first doses could land in Hawaii in the next seven to 14 days.
“The vaccine is that good and it’s that safe that it could be given to everybody,” said Hilton Raethel, head of the Healthcare Association of Hawaii.
“But because it’s a single-dose, it means it’s ideal for certain populations.”
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Raethel said that could include people who are home-bound or those who have a hard time getting around as well as residents of rural areas far from vaccination sites.
Raethel said it’s also a good option for people who are incarcerated, the homeless population and for students over the age of 16.
While the vaccine’s efficacy rate stands at 72% ― lower than Pfizer and Moderna ― it’s proven to prevent hospitalization.
“The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is still extremely effective,” Raethel said.
Many students at the University of Hawaii say they’re eager to be immunized.
“Any shot that’s effective I would take,” said Clayton Petersen, 21.
UH freshman Kylie Beagles added, “I think it’s just the right thing to do.”
“Some people I do know are not exactly interested because of how quickly it was made,” said Colin Cavanaugh, 18. “Most of my friends do agree we should be getting the vaccine as soon as possible.”
Under the state’s vaccine rollout plan, only the school’s faculty and staff are currently eligible for the shot. It’s estimated a little more than 30% of the university’s 16,000 employees have been immunized.
Students fall under Phase 2, which isn’t expected to start until summer.
“We do not believe we can assume at this time that all of our students will be vaccinated by fall,” said University of Hawaii President David Lassner.
But health officials remain optimistic, saying with the addition of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine they’ll be able to open more sites and expand the ones they already have.
Hawaii clinics are currently administering up to 50,000 vaccines a week.
Raethel said, “In the April/May time frame, I think, it’s a very realistic possibility that we could do 100,000-plus shots a week across the state of Hawaii.”
Johnson & Johnson says it will be able to produce 20 million shots by the end of the month with an additional 100 million doses over the summer.