Hawaii officials have not considered student vaccine mandate

HONOLULU — Hawaii’s statewide public school system has not yet considered requiring vaccinations for eligible students.

Hawaii Department of Education Interim Superintendent Keith Hayashi told Board of Education members the decision would be up to the Department of Health, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Friday.

Health Department spokesman Brooks Baehr said the agency “is not currently discussing a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for students age 12 and older. We are focused on the voluntary vaccination of those who are eligible today.”

Hayashi said he didn’t know how many of the state’s 87,000 vaccine-eligible students have been vaccinated. Hayashi said that 90.4% of Department of Education salaried employees statewide were fully or partially vaccinated.

State officials have reported about 3,000 COVID-19 cases at schools since July.

Board of Education member Bruce Voss said the state already requires students to be vaccinated against other diseases.

“Given that those immunizations are required for all students based on science, then why isn’t there more urgency to determine whether or when a student mandate (for COVID-19 vaccination) might be necessary?” Voss asked.

Hayashi said the Department of Education defers to state health officials and that he would contact them to discuss a vaccine mandate.

Voss “strongly encouraged” that discussion and asked for DOE officials to “act promptly.”

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