Johnson & Johnson vaccine available to Big Island kupuna March 16

  • Kelsey Walling/Tribune-Herald Nainoa Kai verifies his name before getting tested for COVID-19 at Afook-Chinen Civic Auditorium in Hilo on Wednesday, March 10, 2021.

  • Kelsey Walling/Tribune-Herald COVID-19 testers with S&G Labs prepare to test more people in line at Afook-Chinen Civic Auditorium in Hilo on Wednesday, March 10, 2021.

A COVID-19 vaccine from Johnson &Johnson will soon be available throughout the state.

On the Big Island, the single-dose inoculation will be offered to kupuna 70 and older Tuesday, March 16, at Edith Kanaka‘ole Multi-Purpose Stadium in Hilo, the state Department of Health announced Wednesday.


Eligible individuals can register by calling 300-1120.

According to the DOH, Hawaii has so far received just one shipment of the Johnson &Johnson vaccine, which was approved Feb. 27 by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

A shipment of 11,900 doses arrived in the state last week, 5,900 of which were delivered to Oahu, while Hawaii, Maui and Kauai counties each were slated to receive 2,000 doses.

The current supply is limited, the DOH said, but the department expects additional shipments will be allocated to Hawaii in the coming weeks.

DOH Immunization Branch Chief Ron Balajadia said in a telephone town hall discussion hosted Wednesday by AARP Hawaii that the single-shot vaccine is different from vaccines manufactured by Pfizer and Moderna, which require two doses, and is safe.

“It definitely affords protection where it’s needed in reducing and minimizing death, reducing and minimizing hospitalizations and reducing and minimizing multiple symptoms of the disease,” he said. “And so we’re real excited about this particular vaccine. … We are anticipating for additional vaccines to come in. That is really, sadly, the one limiting factor that we’re all trying to work with and coordinate and plan appropriately, but as soon as more vaccines are produced, we are able to try to get them out to as many people as we can.”

Although the state initially received 11,900 doses of the Johnson &Johnson vaccine, Balajadia said all jurisdictions throughout the country won’t see any additional vaccines from the company this week, next week and possibly the week after.

“There’s a pause in the distribution, and then we are being told by hopefully the end of the month (or) early next month that production should be already ramping up, so distributions will be coming out,” he said. “And that really would help us determine how best to get vaccine out and to what categories. … But without those doses, it’s very difficult to plan appropriately and to then start scheduling things.”

Hawaii, however, is receiving a growing number of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, the DOH said in a news release. Research shows all three products offer effective protection against COVID-19.

While people now have more vaccine choices, health professionals urge people to accept whatever product they can get.

The DOH, however, said demand for vaccines is still greater than supply. Therefore, only people age 70 and older and those in Phase 1A and 1B of the state’s vaccination plan currently are eligible.

The state’s vaccination plan prioritizes distribution of vaccines in two phases.

The first phase has three components, with an emphasis on high-risk populations.

Phase 1A includes health care personnel and long-term care facility residents, while Phase 1B includes front-line essential workers, such as teachers, and adults 75 and older.

Adults 65-74, people 16-64 with high-risk medical conditions and essential workers not included in 1B can be vaccinated in Phase 1C.

Phase 2 will cover the rest of the population, which includes everyone 16 and older not included in previous categories.

The DOH said vaccinations soon will be available to everyone age 65 and older and those in Phase 1C.


Those who are currently eligible to be vaccinated can choose the Johnson &Johnson regimen by completing a survey online at

Email Stephanie Salmons at

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