COVID cases continue to climb as new vaccine heads to pharmacies

The new shot is expected to be widely available by the middle of next week.
Published: Sep. 13, 2023 at 8:40 PM HST|Updated: Sep. 14, 2023 at 5:02 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - COVID cases are still on an upward trend, including in Hawaii, where the Department of Health reported there were 1,200 new cases statewide last week.

Nearly 900 of them were on Oahu.

Medical experts are hoping that a new vaccine that was approved this week will help stem the rising tide.

Hospitalizations have been rising nationally, while COVID-related deaths have been rising in the islands.

“We all know people in workplaces who tell you, oh 13, 14 people are out this week with COVID,” said Tim Brown, an infectious disease expert with the East-West Center.

“That’s how infectious this thing still is.”

According to the weekly COVID data drop from the DOH, the state is now averaging 134 daily confirmed cases. Last week brought eight deaths of people from the virus, and the weekly positivity rate was 13.1%.

And those are just people with infections confirmed by medical professionals. Many more are self-testing at home, or just assuming it’s a random virus.

“People are generally not wearing masks. People are not taking precautions. People are not getting their vaccines,” Brown said.

While no leaders are pushing for new rules on masking or vaccinations, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control signed off Tuesday on a new COVID vaccine from Pfizer and Moderna. Longs Drugs and other pharmacies are stocking up.

“So we continue to follow CDC guidelines, and CDC does recommend this year the new version of the updated COVID-19 vaccine for everyone 5 (years old) and up is definitely recommended,” said Nicole Henry, a PharmD and Longs Drugs District Leader.

The new vaccine targets the omicron variant known as XBB.1.15, which was the dominant strain in the U.S. two to three months ago. It has already developed into mutations that have allowed it to spread faster.

Medical experts believe there will be a new COVID vaccine once a year to battle new mutations, very similar to the annual flu shot.

So now it’s more than just the “flu season.”

“They now call it ‘respiratory illness season, because we have flu, COVID and RSV, all circulating out there,” said Henry.

Longs Drugs plans to have the new COVID vaccine available at all of its stores by the middle of next week.

The state Health Department plans to release more information on the new vaccine Thursday.