Public urged to get updated COVID shot ahead of respiratory virus season

A new COVID vaccine will be offered in Hawaii next week and with a recent uptick in cases, health officials are urging folks to get the updated shot.
Published: Sep. 15, 2023 at 5:12 PM HST|Updated: Sep. 15, 2023 at 5:22 PM HST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A new FDA-approved COVID vaccine will be offered in Hawaii starting next week. And with a recent uptick in cases, health officials are urging people to get the updated shot.

The one-dose shots are similar to the mRNA vaccines already on the market, but they target the latest infectious Omicron variants.

You could get a jab as soon as Monday.

But If you got COVID this summer and are generally healthy, “you could probably wait about three months or 90 days,” said state Epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Kemble.

“The idea being that when you’ve had recent infection, it probably was with the current circulating strain. That’s why you got it recently. And so your natural immunity will also provide some protection.”

Hawaii saw a late summer surge in COVID cases, likely due to people traveling and students back in classrooms.

“We went from hardly any cases in June and July to over 30 cases in August,” said pediatrician Dr. Michael Walter, medical director at Kalihi-Palama Health Center.

“We tend to see that summer bump, and then the big winter surge. So we are concerned about the winter.”

That’s why the new COVID vaccine comes at a good time, the DOH says, when more protection can help prevent severe cases and hospitalizations.

“The test positivity, I remain concerned that it’s not really dropping further and 13%, Maui is still around 12% is still higher than we’ve seen in about a year at this time. And we’re not seeing as much testing. So the concern is that we could still be having undetected illness,” Kemble said.

In the United States, “at least three times more kids have died from COVID over the same time period than died of flu. In Hawaii, we’ve had disappeared certainly on the last two weeks ago DOH reports on another pediatric death attributed to COVID. And we are in the state still seeing on average about one death every day,” Walter said.

“Most of those are elderly. But you know, sometimes we do see younger adults and kids still dying from COVID.”

Looking ahead to winter, officials are bracing for a trifecta threat of COVID, flu and RSV, similar to last year.

“Getting vaccinated against all three is actually the best way to reduce the chance of having a peak convergence where we see a really big surge in respiratory illness that could overwhelm hospitals,” Kemble said.

The FDA recommends the updated vaccine for anyone aged 6 months and older at least two months after a previous COVID-19 vaccine.

Medicaid, Medicare and most private insurance will cover the cost of the vaccine. Those without insurance can still get them for free with select providers.

About 80% of Hawaii residents did not get the COVID booster. DOH is hoping more folks will get this one.

At last check, Walgreens had appointments available on Monday. Longs Drugs has some on Tuesday. And more providers expect their doses next week.

To find a shot near you, visit