Hawaii prepares for rollout of improved COVID booster (and hopes interest is high)

The new booster was specifically made to battle the Omicron variant.
Published: Aug. 24, 2022 at 4:13 PM HST|Updated: Aug. 24, 2022 at 4:27 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - About 77% of Hawaii’s population is now fully vaccinated against COVID. But only about half of those people went back to get their first booster doses.

And just 15% got their second booster, which is restricted to those at higher risk of severe disease.

Now, state health officials hope a new COVID shot on the horizon will drum up excitement ― and get people to lift up their sleeve as the Omicron variant continues to circulate widely in the community.

“Everyone in Hawaii over the age of 50 is eligible for a second booster shot as long as they received their first booster shot more than four months ago,” said Department of Health spokesperson Brookes Baehr.

Baehr said there is a lot of buzz around the new bivalent vaccine.

It was made to specifically target Omicron and the strains that are responsible for most of the cases in Hawaii.

“So just this week, we placed a pre-order for more than 16,000 of these by bivalent vaccines ― both the Pfizer and the Moderna,” said Baehr. “And next week, we expect to place another pre-order.”

Some populations are still not taking to the first set of shots.

Only 6% of children under 5 in Hawaii are vaccinated.

Meanwhile, ICUs across Hawaii still get very sick patients with COVID.

Dr. Phillip Verhoef, a critical care physician at Kaiser Permanente, said he sees a big difference between people caught up on their shots versus people who have gone a long time without boosters.

“If there’s anything that those patients in the intensive care units have in common, it’s that they haven’t gotten all of their vaccines for COVID,” said Verhoef.

As long as the advisory board review goes well, Kaiser and the DOH are expecting their shipments after Labor Day. Verhoef says the lack of people with boosters is creating unnecessary danger.

“It’s frustrating because I feel like they’re missing out on the opportunity to be protected against really a terrible outcome,” he said. “I’ve absolutely seen people die of this.”