As state prepares to roll out inter-island vaccine passport, some learn they won’t qualify

Updated: Apr. 22, 2021 at 7:17 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Tourism leaders are happy the state is taking steps toward opening up travel, but some residents say the vaccine passport program won’t change their plans.

The governor announced Tuesday that fully vaccinated passengers who receive their shots in the state will be able to travel inter-island without being subject to quarantine and testing rules.

The program is set to launch May 11.

But people like Maui resident Sandra Dockins, who got vaccinated on the mainland, don’t qualify.

“We did what we were asked to do,” Dockins said. “Get a vaccination anywhere, get whatever one you can get. We did that. And it still doesn’t count.”

The state said that’s because their system can only verify vaccinations given in Hawaii ― at least for now.

“At this moment, the state is unable to verify vaccinations for individuals vaccinated outside of the state,” said Maj. Gen. Kenneth Hara, with the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency.

Dockins questions the legality of the state limiting its vaccine exemption to those who got the shot in Hawaii.

According to the state’s Attorney General’s Office, though, the program is lawful because it is “carefully designed to match the state’s ability to confirm the legitimacy of the vaccine information presented by the traveler.”

The office said that there is significant concern about the widespread, fraudulent use of vaccine cards and information.

And because of the likelihood of fraud and public health consequences, it said, the state has a legitimate basis to allow a vaccine exception that matches its ability to verify vaccine information.

The country does not have a national vaccine registry but is working toward a system that will eventually allow for verification of vaccine data for those who were vaccinated on the mainland.

The program also also won’t be much help to families who travel inter-island since children under 16 can’t yet get vaccinated.

Jordan Kawasaki travels to Oahu frequently for check-ups after his daughter recently finished her leukemia treatment. He said he will still need to make sure his child gets tested.

“Some of the questions are, ‘When are we going to get our kids on there?’” Kawasaki asked. “How can we take care of you who can’t get vaccines? What kind of rules will we follow with that?”

But many see this as a welcomed break for businesses who went through the wringer this year.

“It was absolutely wonderful,” said Jim Braman, the general manager for The Cliffs at Princeville in Kauai. “It’s a goal we’ve been working towards for a long time. And it’s a key first step for us in getting back to some sense of normalcy.”

Braman thinks this will have a big impact, even if it’s just for residents. Every time travel rules change, his reservations team gets swamped with visitor questions.

“It was a lot of extra work just to adapt to what seemed like to be daily changes in travel restrictions,” he said. “What can we do today? What can we do tomorrow? We just look for the opportunity that popped up in each one of those as they arose.”

The governor said the passport program will adapt to these issues as it expands.

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