Hawaii clinics on standby to dramatically increase vaccine administration

State to expand eligibility for COVID vaccines to those 70 and up starting Monday

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The number of people getting vaccinated in Hawaii is expected to surge in the coming weeks on the heels of a promise from President Biden.

On Tuesday, he vowed there would be enough vaccines for every adult in the US by the end of May.

Recently, Hawaii vaccination sites have been administering about 50,000 shots a week. Health officials say with more supply, they have the ability to double that.

[Read more: State to expand eligibility for COVID vaccines to those 70 and up starting Monday]

Over at the Hawaii Pacific Health vaccination center at Pier 2, close to 1,300 people were expected to get vaccinated Wednesday. It’s just a fraction of what the clinic is capable of doing.

With more available doses, officials say staff could administer up to 5,000 shots a day.

“We are ready. We already have those plans in place,” said Dr. Melinda Ashton, chief quality control officer for Hawaii Pacific Health.

She said right now extra staffing is on standby, primed to step in and help once the influx of shots arrive. “The footprint’s here. The layout’s here. Everything else is ready,” Ashton said.

Hilton Raethel, head of the Healthcare Association of Hawaii, says nearly all of the state’s vaccinations sites have additional capacity and a plan to expand.

“We could expand tomorrow to 90,000 to 100,000 shots a week,” he said, adding that the state Department of Health is also working to create new vaccination pods in some rural communities.

“On Oahu for example, we would add more sites on the west side. Those sites are already in the works,” Raethel said.

According to Lt. Gov. Josh Green, the state needs to administer about 900,000 doses of the vaccine to start seeing the beginning of herd immunity.

“And I think we’re not going to get there by May 1.” he said.

Green predicts the accelerated timeline could help get students back in class and people to work, as well as provide a much-needed boost the state’s economy.

“We’ll see people coming back to Hawaii efficiently in the summer rather than the fall,” he said.

While Raethel says he’s hopeful, he’ll believe Biden’s promise when vials of the vaccine touch down in Hawaii.

“They’ve been talking since the beginning of the year,” he said. “Or even last year, the prior administration was talking about ramping up. So we’re a little cautiously optimistic until we actually get to see some specific numbers.”

In the meantime, over at Pier 2, Ashton said that the problem is filling vaccine appointments.

“We are now currently beating the bushes for people to make appointments,” she said. “If there is anyone in those categories, the essential worker category and the 75 and older, that’s still waiting ― make their appointments now.”

Appointments are available now through Hawaii Pacific Health. Some as soon as Thursday. You can sign up here.

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