Rather than targeting high-risk conditions, state uses age as ‘a guide’ for vaccine rollout

Updated: Mar. 25, 2021 at 7:39 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii remains on track to open vaccinations to every adult in early May, Lt. Gov. Josh Green said, but many are still anxious to know when it will be their turn.

Right now, people 65 and older and those with some high-risk health conditions ― including respiratory illness, those undergoing chemotherapy and patients on dialysis ― can sign up for the vaccine. But the cries to expand eligibility are widespread.

“You get us vaccines and we will expand that list as rapidly as we can because today we all feel constrained that there are people we know who need it and can’t get it,” said Dr. Jill Hoggard Green, CEO of Queen’s Health Systems.

She says more people with chronic illnesses need to get vaccinated.

“We’ve got a lot of folks with chronic illness and the faster we can get the people who potentially would potentially die from this disease vaccinated the more we are going see movement forward in our whole community,” she said.

Instead of targeting everyone with health conditions, the state plans to roll out vaccines by age groups.

“Because there are so many conditions and there are different degrees of severity of those conditions, it was determined that we would let age serve as our guide,” said Health Department spokesman Brooks Baehr.

Green said those 55 and up could be eligible for the vaccine in a couple of weeks.

“I think we are poised to go to the 55 to 65 category. That will capture another huge hunk of those with chronic disease,” he said. “Then there would be one more category, which would be 45 to 54, before we open up the whole state hopefully in the first week of May.”

In a community clinic in Waipahu on Tuesday, 130 people from the Pacific Island and Samoan community got vaccinated. The youngest was 30 years old. “That we did for all ages because that cohort of individuals was seeing a lot of spread and higher risk,” said Green.

The state Health Department says so far nearly 560,000 doses of vaccine have been administered and 24% of the population, not including the military, has received at least one dose.

Baehr says essential workers next in line to get the vaccine will be workers in banking and finance, construction and communications, but a date hasn’t been released yet.

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