New COVID-19 vaccines available with enhanced protection for Omicron variant
The Hawai‘i Department of Health and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend use of the new 2023-2024 COVID-19 vaccines that recently were approved and authorized by the US Food and Drug Administration.
The new vaccines protect against the XBB-lineages of the Omicron variant that accounts for 99% of COVID-19 cases in Hawai‘i.
These vaccines replace the previously approved and authorized Bivalent mRNA vaccines.
State Health Director Dr. Kenneth S. Fink said the new vaccines come at a good time.
“We are seeing increased numbers of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations,” he said. “By getting the new 2023-2024 COVID-19 vaccine, you are taking steps to help minimize the spread of disease in our communities. This is especially important as we approach the holiday season.”
The Food and Drug Administration announced the approval and authorization of the updated vaccine formulations on Sept. 11. The next day, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended the updated vaccines for all persons 6 months of age and older.
For persons 5 years of age and older, the new vaccines are to be administered as a single dose, at least two months since a person’s last dose of any COVID-19 vaccine.
For persons under the age of 5, recommended doses and vaccination schedule will vary depending on the child’s previous vaccination history and vaccine brand administered. If you have any questions, please consult with your child’s physician for guidance.
For children 6 months through 18 years of age, the new vaccines will be available through the Vaccines For Children Program, with health insurance coverage for zero out-of-pocket cost. The new vaccines should be available wherever children currently receive their other routine childhood immunizations.
Unlike previous COVID-19 vaccines, the new vaccines are not being exclusively distributed by the US government to vaccination providers. The new vaccines also are available through traditional pathways for purchase, distribution and payment, including health insurance coverage.
Initial public and private sector orders of the new vaccines have begun shipping and are expected to arrive in pharmacies and provider offices on Friday and Saturday. However, not all providers will have vaccines available at the same time as shipping timeframes will vary between manufacturers, vaccine distributors and provider locations.
It is recommended to give providers time to ensure vaccines are received in good condition, stored properly and inventoried in their systems, in order to properly administer and document the vaccination of patients.
Scheduling of vaccination appointments will be done by individual vaccine providers once they receive delivery of their vaccine supply.
Persons seeking vaccination may search for vaccine providers on the Vaccines.gov – Find COVID‑19 vaccine locations near you website.
For uninsured and underinsured adults, the website will be updated to include a filter feature to identify locations participating in the Bridge Access Program.
The Department of Health reminds the public that in addition to getting the new vaccines, masking and physical distancing continue to be effective for protecting yourself and others against COVID-19. Good hygiene practices, such as frequent handwashing, also are highly recommended to prevent the spread of the virus.