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

Updated: Mar. 4, 2021 at 8:36 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The state is expanding eligibility to residents 70 and up starting Monday ― a week ahead of schedule ― citing increased vaccine supply.

The state Health Department made the announcement Wednesday.

Vaccination clinics had previously been focused on delivering shots to frontline and healthcare workers, a long list of other essential workers, and seniors 75 and up.

The groups make up Phases 1a and 1b in the state’s vaccination plan.

In expanding eligibility to those 70 and up, the state would be moving to the next phase in its vaccination plan (Phase 1c). That phase also includes those 65 and up, more essential workers and people with conditions that put them at risk of severe symptoms from COVID-19.

In all, Phase 1c includes roughly 400,000 residents.

Because it’s so big, officials have said they need to further prioritize people who fall into Phase 1c categories. That’s why the state is initially expanding eligibility to those 70 and up.

“We have vaccinated enough people in those groups that we are able to open eligibility to everyone 70 and above,” state Health Director Dr. Elizabeth Char said, in a news release.

“We will closely monitor how quickly vaccines are used and may open to people age 65 and up and those in phase 1c in a couple of weeks.”

The state has so far administered more than 371,000 doses of the COVID vaccine. Roughly 15% of the population has already received at least one dose.

Among those 75 and up, 63% have gotten at least one dose of the vaccine.

[Read more: Does the second dose of the COVID vaccine really pack a bigger punch?]

Also on Wednesday, the state announced it had received its first doses of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Oahu got 5,900 doses of the vaccine, while 6,000 went to the Neighbor Islands.

“The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is highly effective in preventing severe illness, hospitalization and death,” the Department of Health said, in an email. “Its single-shot regimen eliminates the need for patients to return for a second dose and it can be stored at refrigerator temperatures for months.”

The Health Department also said it would be inviting public school educators to get the Johnson & Johnson vaccine this Friday. It was also planning vaccination clinics for other groups.

This story will be updated.

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