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 to the state of 975 doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine arrived at 8 a.m. Monday at The Queen’s Medical Center in Honolulu. The vaccines were immediately transferred from their thermo-insulated containers 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 throughout 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 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,” said Dr. Jill Hoggard Green, president and CEO of The Queen’s Health Systems. “We have been looking forward to this day for a long time. 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 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 QNHCH 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 vaccine “sometime next week,” said Judy Donovan, hospital spokeswoman 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 estimated it will vaccinate about 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.
Email Chelsea Jensen at firstname.lastname@example.org.