HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - As the state receives more COVID vaccine doses, the Department of Health is asking Neighbor Islands to expand eligibility -- and many counties are jumping at the opportunity.
Hawaii and Kauai County will open vaccine eligibility to anyone 16 years and older beginning Monday.
“We’ve been able to move forward a little bit faster than some of the other counties in vaccination eligibility, and I think it largely reflects our small size,” said Dr. Janet Berreman, the district health officer for Kauai County.
“The task of organizing and getting people through and getting the word out is easier.”
Despite the age expansion beginning on Monday, Hilo Medical Center announced it will be expanding eligibility to those age 16 and up Thursday to encourage more people to sign up for appointments at the center’s mass vaccination POD on Saturday. At this event, Hilo Medical Center plans to administer 5,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine.
The Maui County District Health Officer, Dr. Lorrin Pang, said the plan is to open up the vaccine to those age 18 and older by next week as well.
Pang said vaccine appointments that were being booked by those age 60 and up and by essential workers in the 1C category were slowing down. He said that if clinics become inundated with appointments after expansion, they may have to step back.
This decision to expand eligibility came as the state health department Director Dr. Elizabeth Char announced Wednesday that Neighbor Islands should open vaccine eligibility to ensure all appointments are filled.
Health officials said the Pfizer vaccine is the only vaccine currently approved for children 16 years and older. Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are only approved for recipients 18 years and older.
The Department of Health said they will be expanding eligibility on Oahu when the pace of appointments slows and there are enough vaccines to meet the demand of those who qualify.
To register for a vaccination appointment at Hilo Medical Center, click here.