Looking for a COVID vaccine appointment? Persistence (and patience) recommended

Updated: Mar. 16, 2021 at 4:59 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The state expanded vaccine eligibility to roughly 400,000 more residents on Monday, but getting an appointment for a jab make take persistence ― and patience.

Under the state’s COVID vaccination plan, Hawaii is now in Phase 1c.

That means those 65 and over are now eligible for a shot, along with residents who have some high-risk medical conditions and a long list of essential workers.

“What the Department of Health has decided to do in conjunction with health care systems across the state is for Phase 1c, for people with high-risk medical conditions, is to restrict that to three groups,” said Hilton Raethel, president and CEO of the Healthcare Association of Hawaii.

“People who are on dialysis, individuals with severe respiratory disease are on oxygen, and those undergoing chemotherapy or other infusion therapy, those individuals with those medical conditions qualify for Phase 1c high risk at this point in time.”

[Read more: How to get an appointment to get a COVID-19 vaccine]

According to the state Health Department website, further prioritization is in effect for essential workers. Those working in restaurants, travel and bars may be vaccinated before other workers.

Raethel said that is because those workers are in higher-risk situations.

Once Hawaii gets through 1c, the state will begin to open vaccination up by age.

“Then we’ll just be going by reverse age bands, in five-year increments because disease status is highly correlated with age,” Raethel said. “So, we want to get to those individuals who are older and get through each of the age groups in five-year bands.”

The news comes less than a week after the state expanded access to vaccines to those 70 and up.

“This is another huge step in the ongoing effort to protect Hawaii residents from COVID-19,” said State Health Director Dr. Elizabeth Char, in a news release. “We will continue to administer vaccines soon after they arrive and are pleased we can now offer shots to more people.”

[Read more: Biden to address nation, wants everyone vaccine-eligible by May 1]

With eligibility expanded, appointments for vaccines at Pier 2 are booked solid through Saturday with vaccinators scheduled to administer 2,000 shots a day.

“I think the rush will be on for a while unless the vaccine supply suddenly, drastically increases,” said Hawaii Pacific Health Chief Quality Control Officer Dr. Melinda Ashton.

She added more appointments will be available very soon.

“Likely Wednesday afternoon. We’ll open up next weeks (appointments),” Ashton said.

People who are eligible for the vaccine can also try and secure appointments elsewhere.

“They qualify for multiple other vaccine providers,” Ashton said. “Queen’s runs a pod at Blaisdell. Castle has a distribution area for vaccine and Kaiser does as well. Department of Health runs some other pods.”

COVID vaccines are also being offered at some drug store chains.

Statewide, Hawaii is expected to receive about 65,000 doses this week. Officials say that weekly allotment is expected to increase significantly in April.

“Both Moderna and Pfizer are increasing their production of the vaccine. But in addition we’re expecting to get supply of Johnson and Johnson,” said Raethel.

HNN also confirmed a new mass vaccination site is in the works for the Queen’s Medical Center - West Oahu. It’s slated to open March 24.

Meanwhile, many of the state’s already established vaccination sites are prepared to expand.

“We actually believe we could go up to 5,000 a day if we had the vaccine to do it,” Ashton said.

Until then she offered a few words of advice.

“Hang in there,” she said. “Keep trying and you will get your shot.”

Health officials say Hawaii is expected to receive close to 70,000 doses of the coronavirus vaccine next week. The state said registration for vaccines for those 65 us available at hawaiicovid19.com.

This story will be updated.

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