Hawaii vaccine providers are seeing strong demand for new Omicron-fighting booster

The state reports clinics gave out more than 11,000 doses since they were available last Friday.
Published: Sep. 15, 2022 at 5:29 PM HST|Updated: Sep. 15, 2022 at 5:49 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The state Department of Health says it’s seeing strong demand for the COVID bivalent boosters made by Pfizer and Moderna.

A DOH spokesperson says healthcare providers gave out more than 11,000 doses since they were available last Friday, but officials expect that number to be higher because many doses are not reported to the state.

Retail pharmacies like CVS Longs and Walgreens, the Department of Defense and federal health centers can also order their own supply of bivalent boosters.

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Organizers of pop-up vaccine clinics at the Filipino Community Center in Waipahu say many people put off getting boosted, but now that the bivalent version is out they’re ready to take the plunge.

More than half of vaccinated people in Hawaii are not boosted ― a statistic nonprofit FilCom Cares works to change, especially in higher-risk communities.

“It feels more like it’s back to normal. And maybe that’s why they may not see that urgency to get the booster,” said Agnes Malate, director of FilCom Cares.

Now that there’s a shot that fights Omicron variants, healthcare workers are ramping up outreach before cases rise during the holidays.

“At the beginning, we did have a lot of hesitancy. It was a lot of dirty looks on us. But, you know, we get to talk stories. And I think that’s the best part, you know, is talking to stories with the community and then helping them understand,” said FilCom Cares project manager Richalle Patague.

Upcoming travel is a big motivator for 74-year-old Mila Beltran.

“I’ve been waiting for this,” Beltran said. “I’ll be going to be going to Las Vegas. That’s why I’ll be mingling with people that I didn’t know. Might as well have some protection.”

She added: “I want to be really safe even though I have already four shots.”

Patague, 29, was ineligible for a second booster and jumped at the chance to get the bivalent, especially since she’s traveling to the Philippines next month.

“I’m kind of excited because I just don’t want to be sick, you know, being Filipino, there’s so much already so much superstition,” she said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends everyone age 12 and older get the updated formula when they’re eligible for a booster, regardless of which vaccine you started with.

It’s OK to mix and match, experts say, as long as you get some protection.

“It will be with us, just like the flu. And just like all these other vaccines that we’ve taken, you know, chicken pox, measles for all these different illnesses,” she said.

The state says it ordered its full allotment from the federal government last week ― 27,300 of Pfizer. It’s taking orders from providers now for another allotment of 24,300 of Pfizer shots.

No additional allotments of Moderna boosters are available.

FilCom Cares will offer the Pfizer bivalent booster at the Nomi Health Fair on Sept. 24, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. For information on its future clinics across the state, click here or visit their Facebook page.