The Hawaii Department of Health has ordered about 38,000 doses of the bivalent Covid-19 booster that could arrive as soon as early September, a top health official said Friday.

The vaccine, administered by Pfizer and Moderna, targets the original coronavirus and the highly contagious omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5, which are responsible for nearly 90% of new Covid cases in the U.S.

“It’s thought that we will not only be protected from severe illness and hospitalization, but also help to minimize even getting infected or getting reinfected,” Health Director Elizabeth Char said during a Honolulu Star-Advertiser “Spotlight” interview.

Department of Health Director Dr. Elizabeth Char in a joint press conference with Governor Ige and Department of Education Keith Hayashi.
Hawaii Department of Health Director Elizabeth Char said the department has ordered more than 10,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine and more than 27,000 of the Pfizer vaccine. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2021

Char added that the process is moving quickly as the two pharmaceutical companies are awaiting the green light from the Food and Drug Administration as well as recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The vaccine is expected to be available for people 12 years and older, which would cover a wider range of the state’s population than the second Covid booster that’s only available for people older than 50 years and immunocompromised.

On Wednesday, Hawaii reported a seven-day Covid positivity rate of 8.6%, with 13 new deaths over the past week. Just over 77% of the population has been fully vaccinated, 85.7% have received the first vaccine dose and 44.7% have taken the first booster shot. About 11% of the population received the second booster shot, according to Char.

Char also said that when the bivalent booster arrives, it won’t be enough for the state’s population of 1.42 million.

“When the vaccine comes, we will use it to the best of our ability and get it out here, but it’s not going to be enough for everybody up front,” Char said. “Similar to when we first had booster shots and the vaccine, we’re going to have to figure out how best to vaccinate those who really need it first.”

“We’re still waiting to hear whether the CDC is going to put any sort of restrictions on it or if they’re just going to leave it up to the states,” she added.

The department does not plan on campaigning for the vaccines like they’ve done previously because they don’t have the funds for it, according to Char.

“What we’re looking at is to get it as widely dispersed as we can into our community,” Char said. “To make sure it’s in every island that people have access to, that they have easy access to it, and it’s close to where they live and where they work.”

The department ordered approximately 10,500 doses of Moderna’s bivalent vaccine and 27,300 doses of Pfizer’s vaccine.

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