Hawaii Island hospitals could begin administering the COVID-19 vaccine as early as next week, officials said Monday afternoon, hours after the arrival of the first doses on Oahu.
The first shipment of 975 doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine to the state arrived at 8 a.m. Monday at The Queen’s Medical Center in Honolulu. The vaccines were immediately transferred from their thermo-insulated containers containing dry into one of two ultra-cold freezers for storage.
Vaccinations are expected to begin Tuesday, The Queen’s Health Systems said in a news release Monday as health care workers across the nation began receiving shots in what will become the largest vaccination effort in U.S. history.
Priority for the vaccine will be given to those with direct patient care of COVID patients, and those caring for at-risk populations. The vaccine will not be mandatory for any employee.
“This is indeed a momentous day. We have been looking forward to this day for a long time,” said Dr. Jill Hoggard Green, PhD, RN, president and CEO, The Queen’s Health Systems. “This vaccine will give us another layer of protection against this devastating disease. It is important for all of us to remember that as vaccinations get underway, we still need to be vigilant about wearing our masks, practicing physical distancing, and washing our hands. We want to thank our city, state, and federal partners who have been at the forefront with us in the fight against COVID-19.”
The remaining 3,900 doses of Hawaii’s first order is expected to arrive Wednesday, and nearly 45,000 additional doses of the Pfizer vaccine are expected to arrive in Hawaii this month.
As many as 36,000 doses of a vaccine from Moderna also are expected by the end of the month, pending the vaccine’s approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Queen’s North Hawaii Community Hospital in Waimea said the facility anticipates it will receive some of the eight trays of 975 doses to be shipped to the outer islands “sometime next week.”
“We will hopefully be receiving some of that shipment,” said spokeswoman Lynn Scully. “We expect to be giving vaccines several days later.”
The Hawaii Health Systems Corporation’s Kona Community Hospital expects to receive its first shipment of the COVID-19 vaccine “sometime next week,” said Judy Donovan, spokeswoman for the Kealakekua-based hospital and the HHSC’s West Hawaii Region, which includes Kohala Hospital, Alii Health Center and the Kona Ambulatory Surgery Center. Like Queen’s, the vaccine will not be mandatory.
Donovan said the hospital was unsure exactly how many doses it would receive in the first shipment, or whether the vaccine would be from Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna. Pfizer received emergency approval for its vaccine last week; Moderna goes before the FDA on Thursday.
“We are prepared to roll out the next day,” Donovan said, noting the HHSC’s West Hawaii Region has estimated it will vaccinate around 700 people, starting with front-line health workers and expanding outward per the state’s four-stage COVID-19 Vaccination Plan.
Elena Cabatu, spokeswoman for Hilo Medical Center and the Hawaii Health Systems Corporation’s East Hawaii Region, said the first doses could arrive in East Hawaii as early as Monday. She added that after seeing how quickly the vaccine arrived in Honolulu after receiving emergency approval, doses could arrive on island earlier.
“We’re anxiously awaiting the arrival of our shipment,” Cabatu said.
According to the COVID-19 Vaccination Plan, 883,600 people in Hawaii would be vaccinated during the first three stages followed by anyone who did not have access during previous allocation stages.
The first stage, which includes two phases, covers high-risk health workers and first-responders followed by people with comorbidities and underlying health conditions that put them at high risk and adults over age 65 living in “overcrowded settings.” It’s estimated 121,000 will be vaccinated during stage one.
Stage two includes K-12 teachers and school staff; critical risk workers; people with comorbidities and underlying health conditions that put them at moderately high risk; people in homeless shelters or group homes; incarcerated individuals and staff at incarceration facilities; and all adults over age 65. An estimated 450,000 people would be vaccinated during stage two.
In the third stage, an additional 403,000 people would be vaccinated, including young adults between age 18 and 24 and children up to age 17 and workers in industries and occupations not included in earlier stages.
The fourth stage would work to vaccinate an undetermined number of Hawaii residents who did not have access to or receive a vaccination during the earlier stages.