LIHU‘E — Every state was required to submit a draft COVID-19 vaccination-distribution plan to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week.
Ronald Balajadia, state Department of Health Immunization Branch chief, said the state’s draft, not currently available to the public, will be available on the DOH website after feedback from the CDC and stakeholders is incorporated.
During a press conference Thursday, Balajadia, along with Lt. Gov. Josh Green and Gov. David Ige, shared some details.
Pending federal authorization, a vaccine could be available as early as the end of the year, Green said. By February through May, more vaccinations will hopefully be available, he said.
“The goal, of course, is to get immunity from COVID-19,” Green said. This could look like two shots about four weeks apart, he said.
“As the initial rollout comes, we are aware there will be limited vaccine dosages at the onset, and that vaccine will be available to those within certain criteria or priority groups,” Balajadia said.
This first draft identifies first responders, health-care employees, long-term health-care providers, those with underlying health conditions that put them at severe risk of COVID-19, and those 65 and up living in long-term facilities, as the first round of vaccine targets.
The second tier includes essential workers, like teachers, those with underlying health conditions that put them at moderate risk of COVID-19, and those in or working at group homes specializing in physical or mental disabilities, homeless shelters or correctional facilities.
The third groups include younger people, from newborn to 22 years old, and employees at increased risk levels, and the fourth group includes everybody else.
The state is working with over 150 stakeholders across 90 organizations in “vaccination workgroups” with guidance from the CDC, to mitigate COVID-19-related illnesses, hospitalizations and death. Balajadia said stakeholders in the private sector, federal government and medical field are working on details of who fits into these targeted groups.
“There are many important details that we need from the CDC to finalize and operationalize our plan,” Ige said. “It’s important to start planning now so we’re ready when a safe and effective vaccine is available.”
Experts, Ige said, say that 60% to 70% of the population must develop immunity to “break the chain of transmission.”
“A safe and effective vaccine is the best way to reach this level of immunity,” Ige said. “Once we get to that level, we can get more aggressive about reviving our economy.”
The best estimates on when a vaccine would be available, Ige said, would be at least a few months. “However, we want distribution instructions and procedures in place that would allow us to get everyone protected as quickly and efficiently as possible.”
More funds available
The federal government has provided another $800,000 for vaccine-distribution investment, Ige said.
“These funds still are not enough,” Ige said, nothing that this new money is being used by the DOH to divert staff to vaccine development and additional employees.
“This supports the most-important pillar of the pandemic action plan: protecting public health,” Ige said.
In the first week of the Safe Travels program, the state had 58,611 people screened, including 49,791 exempted and 7,293 quarantined. In addition, the state created a surveillance program to screen about 10% of incoming travelers.
Of the people randomly screened in the last week, the state reported one positive case.
Green identified November as the earliest for allowing in international travelers, but that is still up in the air.
State reports 102 new cases
On Thursday, the state reported 102 new positive COVID-19 cases, including 52 on O‘ahu, 18 on Maui, 29 on Hawai‘i Island and three residents outside of the state.
Heading into flu season, the state is expecting to see an increase in positive coronavirus cases, Balajadia said, noting that prevention measures, like masks and social distancing, remain vital.
“Let’s hope 2021 looks a lot better than 2020,” Green said.
Sabrina Bodon, can be reached at 245-0441 or firstname.lastname@example.org.