People with high-risk medical conditions and those 65 and older will be added to the COVID-19 vaccine eligibility pool starting Monday, marking the state’s entrance into its 1c vaccine phase, Hawaii health officials announced Tuesday.

Until now, the vaccines were limited to health workers, long term care facility residents, and kupuna 70 years old and older, along with a collection of frontline essential workers.

People on oxygen support or dialysis, as well as those undergoing chemotherapy or infusion therapy, will now be eligible, according to Department of Health Director Dr. Libby Char.

Dose #1 of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in syringe during press event held at Queen's Medical Center. December 15, 2020
There are currently three types of COVID-19 vaccines available in the U.S. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2020

Hilton Raethel, the president and CEO of the Healthcare Association of Hawaii said the recommendation to focus on those conditions first came from a group of physician leaders who were convened specifically for the task.

Raethel said the group came to the conclusion it would be too complex to include all possible conditions that might predispose a person to severe COVID-19. Since age is generally correlated with those conditions, he said, it made more sense to continue moving through age groups in five-year increments and focus only on those disease categories.

High Risk Medical Conditions

More categories of essential workers will be added to the eligibility pool, including those who work in “hotels and hospitality, food service, banking and finance, transportation, construction, media, logistics, information technology and more.” Essential workers are defined as “people in industries and occupations important to the functioning of society and at increased risk of exposure,” according to the Department of Health.

Hawaii clinics received about 62,000 doses this week and are due to receive more vaccine doses from federal authorities.

The news came as President Joe Biden announced Thursday he would compel all states to offer vaccines to every adult by May 1 — just a month-and-a-half away.

In Hawaii’s vaccine announcement, Char estimated it would take several months for Hawaii health providers to complete phase 1c inoculations. An estimated 500,000 people are included in Hawaii’s phase 1c.

Asked whether or not Hawaii would be able to meet Biden’s May mandate, DOH Spokesman Brooks Baehr would not say.

The “pace at which we can proceed depends on the vaccine supply allotted to us,” he wrote to Civil Beat by email.

Starting next week, those newly eligible may register for an appointment at or directly with health care providers.

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