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Vaccinations expand to ages 65 and older, others in Phase 1c

The state Department of Health announced that starting Monday, vaccination eligibility would expand to Phase 1c — adults ages 65 and older, people ages 16 to 64 with high-risk medical conditions and essential workers who did not qualify under Phase 1b. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

The Maui News

The state Department of Health will expand vaccinations on Monday to residents ages 65 and older and others who qualify under Phase 1c, the largest group under the state’s vaccination plan.

“This is another huge step in the ongoing effort to protect Hawaii residents from COVID-19,” state Health Director Dr. Elizabeth Char said in a news release Thursday. “We will continue to administer vaccines soon after they arrive and are pleased we can now offer shots to more people.”

Phase 1c is open to those ages 65 and older, people ages 16 to 64 with high-risk medical conditions and essential workers who did not qualify under Phase 1b.

Essential workers are people in industries and occupations important to the functioning of society and at increased risk of exposure, the DOH said. This includes people who work in hotels and hospitality, food service, banking and finance, transportation, construction, media, logistics, information technology and more.

The DOH said it will likely take months to work through Phase 1c, which covers nearly 540,000 people statewide, or 47 percent of the total population, according to the state’s vaccination plan.

Vaccination efforts so far have focused on the nearly 69,000 health care personnel and long-term care facility residents in Phase 1a — about 6 percent of the population — and the close to 230,000 adults 75 and older and frontline essential workers included in Phase 1b — about 20 percent of the population.

Phase 2, which includes all residents over the age of 16 who did not qualify for the vaccine in earlier phases, accounts for nearly 310,000 people, or 27 percent of the population.

“We still do not have enough vaccines to get to everyone right away,” Char said. “Everyone will have the opportunity to be vaccinated, but Phase 1c is a very large proportion of the community, so we ask that people continue to be patient as the vaccination program continues to gain momentum.”

Hawaii’s weekly vaccine allotment from the federal government has gradually increased from about 40,000 doses a week in early February to more than 62,000 doses this week, and will likely continue to grow, according to the DOH.

Registration opportunities for people ages 65 and older and others in Phase 1c will soon be available through links posted on hawaiicovid19.com and from health care providers around the state, DOH said.

AARP Hawai’i, which has been holding events to help kupuna learn about and access the vaccine, thanked the department for expanding vaccines to those 65 and older but said “there’s still a lot of hard work ahead to vaccinate all kupuna.” A questionnaire released by AARP Wednesday showed that kupuna who are computer literate are mostly able to make appointments for vaccinations.

“However, the state must make sure sufficient resources and priority are given to kupuna who can’t use a computer, who are homebound and isolated or who are immigrants who don’t speak English,” AARP Hawai’i State Director Keali’i Lopez said in a statement on Thursday. “The state is doing a good job of reaching the low-hanging fruit of people who can make appointments online. But we must expend more effort to climb up the mango tree and get the harder-to-reach fruit.”

Lopez also called for “more transparency around the vaccination process, including clear explanations on what qualifies as high-risk medical conditions, who qualifies as an essential worker and information on vaccinations by age groupings so that the public can know that kupuna are being prioritized as the state moves through Group 1c.”

On Thursday, CVS/Longs also announced it would be offering vaccines to eligible groups as early as Sunday at seven additional Longs Drugs locations across Hawaii, putting the number of stores administering doses in the state at 17.

Appointments will open for booking on Saturday, and doses will be available to people meeting state eligibility criteria, as well as K-12 teachers and staff and child care workers.

Supply for the expanded rollout in the state comes from the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program, CVS said. Participating Longs Drugs are in Lahaina, Hauula, Honolulu, Pearl City and Waianae.

Kahului Longs is the only Maui location currently offering the vaccine and was fully booked as of Thursday night, according to the CVS website.

Active stores may change based on vaccine supply, CVS said.

Appointments must be made in advance on CVS.com or through the CVS Pharmacy app. People without online access can contact CVS Customer Service at (800) 746-7287.

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