The new COVID-19 vaccines being introduced in Hawaii are designed to be administered annually, similar to flu shots. State epidemiologist Sarah Kemble states that this is an opportune time to get a new shot targeted to currently circulating variants to maximize protection. The recently approved vaccines address the XBB-lineages of the omicron variant that account for 99% of COVID-19 cases in Hawaii.
The new 2023-2024 COVID-19 vaccines will replace the previously approved bivalent mRNA vaccines and will be available at pharmacies. Unlike previous COVID-19 vaccines, the new shots will not be provided free of charge by the federal government. They will be covered by private insurance, Medicaid, Medicare, or the federal program called the Bridge Access Program for the uninsured.
The primary providers of the new vaccine will be pharmacy chains CVS/Longs and Walgreens. Other providers will also receive vaccine supplies over time. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the updated 2023-2024 COVID-19 vaccines for all people aged 6 months and older.
The new vaccines will be administered as a single dose for those 5 and older, at least two months after their last dose of any COVID-19 vaccine. For children under 5, the recommended doses and vaccination schedule will depend on their previous vaccination history and vaccine brand administered.
The new COVID-19 vaccines will be available through the Vaccines For Children program for children aged 6 months through 18 years, as well as health insurance coverage with no out-of-pocket cost. Parents or guardians with questions should consult their child’s physician for guidance.
The rollout of the new vaccines comes at a time when cases and hospitalizations are increasing. State Health Director Kenneth S. Fink emphasizes the importance of getting the new vaccines to help minimize the spread of disease, especially as the holiday season approaches.
The new vaccines will also help in reducing the risk of a surge in respiratory illnesses from COVID-19, influenza, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). Sarah Kemble stresses the importance of getting vaccinated against all three to reduce the chance of a peak convergence in cases.
She hopes that a higher percentage of eligible individuals will choose to receive the COVID vaccine shot when it becomes available. Even for young, healthy adults, getting vaccinated reduces the risk of a bad outcome from COVID-19 and prevents a massive surge of infections that could impact the overall health system.
To find a provider with the new vaccine, visit the website hawaiicovid19.com and select “vaccines” from the drop-down menu.
Sources: The Hawaii Tribune-Herald