HONOLULU — Hawaii expects to receive 80,000 doses of the coronavirus vaccine in December for distribution to health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities.
The state Department of Health made its initial trial order Friday with Pfizer Inc. for 4,875 doses of the company's COVID-19 vaccine, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Wednesday.
The December order will be used to provide the first-priority group in the islands with the first of two doses, which require a minimum 28 days in between injections.
"This first supply of vaccine is reserved for the highest-risk groups. We're taking care of the people who take care of us first, but later supplies will be available to everyone," Hawaii Department of Health spokeswoman Janice Okubo said.
Each vaccine order is expected to arrive within 48 to 72 hours and will be distributed for free, Okubo said.
"The state will order vaccine supplies as needed based on the plans that facilities have for implementing their vaccinations," Okubo said.
Hawaii's long-term care facilities and community care homes as of Wednesday had reported 640 coronavirus cases, including 332 patients, 277 health care workers and 31 other associated people who have been infected.
Virus cases have resulted in at least 55 nursing home deaths in Hawaii since March.
Details of the state's vaccination plan are expected to be released this week.
An October draft plan said the health department would need to build capacity to immunize about 121,000 residents in "critical populations" with two vaccine doses.
Under that scenario, the state would need 242,000 doses for 11% of the population age 18 and older.
The state hopes to vaccinate 60% to 70% of the population to reach so-called herd immunity by mid-2021. The health department expects most residents will be able to receive a second vaccine shot in the latter half of 2021.
"It's certainly going to help to prevent the spread of disease, but we're still going to need to continue wearing masks and distancing until we see the effects and until, of course, everyone gets access to the vaccine," Okubo said.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.