Early reports about a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine are giving people hope as Hawai‘i and other states are beginning a nationwide immunization campaign. “Epidemiologists say at least 60 to 70 percent of the population need to have immunity to a virus to break the chain of transmission,” said Governor Ige. As of Dec. 16, initial deliveries of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines had arrived at The Queen’s Medical Center, Tripler Army Medical Center and other medical facilities.
Although a COVID-19 vaccine approved by the Food and Drug Administration isn’t expected to be widely available to the general population until next year, DOH is preparing now to mobilize what is expected to be a community-wide effort to help protect as many people as possible. “A COVID-19 vaccination has been presented as our ticket to better health and restoration of a sense of normalcy,” said DOH director Dr. Elizabeth Char. “We have to make sure we get this right, starting with using a safe and effective, FDA-approved vaccine.” Since there will initially be limited supplies, the vaccine will be available first to those who fall within certain priority groups. The first group includes high-risk healthcare workers and others involved with direct patient care, as well as first responders who may be exposed to COVID-19. Hawai‘i residents of all ages who have underlying health conditions, including those 65 and older who live in group settings, also are included in this first category.
At an earlier House of Representatives briefing, Ronald Balajadia, DOH immunization branch chief, described the state’s vaccination plan as a “living document” adapted to Hawai‘i’s needs with public input from multiple stakeholders. He said the planning included addressing concerns about safety and efficacy, providing mobile teams to reach those in rural or remote areas of the state, and working closely with pharmacies, hospitals, community health centers and other providers. For current information on vaccination progress, go to https://hawaiicovid19.com/vaccine/.
(This article provides updated information as of December 16, 2020 on the state’s vaccination campaign. A PDF of the December Capitol Connection on this subject was written earlier.)