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This message was shared with the students, faculty and staff of the 10-campus University of Hawaiʻi system on February 9, 2021.

Aloha UH employees and students,

This message provides the latest information we have on the stateʻs vaccination efforts as it applies to the University of Hawaiʻi community. The situation is very fluid, changing literally every day. The vaccine supply to Hawaiʻi continues to be limited and somewhat unpredictable. Please be assured that UH is doing everything we can to get our employees and students vaccinated as soon as we can within the State priority guidelines. We wish we could provide more definitive information and guidance at this time, but this is the best we can offer right now.

The State is now vaccinating people in the 1A and some 1B priority groups and those 75 years and older. The process differs from island to island and even by region. Some of the vaccination administrators have applied different rules from time to time.

Our 1A employees and students, who are high-risk health workers involved in direct patient care and those who provide transportation, environmental services and other health care facility services, who risk exposure to bodily fluids or aerosols, have been vaccinated or offered vaccination. We are hoping that all 75+ year-old members of our ʻohana have already been vaccinated or are registered to be vaccinated through the many public options available at this time (Pier 2, Blaisdell, etc.).

As stated in my January 14 message most higher-education employees and some students are in the 1B priority group. The Hawaiʻi Department of Health (DOH) and the counties have since asked UH to provide sub-prioritized 1B lists, with email addresses, given the large size of the statewide 1B group, which includes the State Department of Education. The 1B group includes employees, including student employees and Graduate Assistants, who fit DOH‘s definition of frontline essential workers (1Bs):

“the subset of essential workers likely at highest risk for work-related exposure to SARS-CoC-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, because their work-related duties must be performed on-site and involve being in close proximity (<6 feet) to the public or to coworkers.”

The 1B group has four subgroups. Many of the 1B-1s on Oʻahu have begun to be notified by email with instructions on where and how to schedule their appointments.

  • 1B-1s are custodial, security, environmental health services, facilities, 24/7 IT operations, student residence hall staff, and child care staff on campus now;
  • 1B-2s are those employees and students whose job duties have required that they be on campus 3 or more days per week, and faculty who are teaching in-person classes;
  • 1B-3s are students residing on campus, student athletes, and volunteer athletic coaches; and
  • 1B-4s are faculty and staff who are teleworking but essential to university operations and resumption of in-person education after this semester.

The Hawaiʻi Department of Health is managing similar lists from across the state and allocating vaccine doses as they become available at specific PODs (points of dispensing) across the islands. Individuals will be officially notified by email when and where they can schedule a vaccination appointment. If you are notified, please sign up for an appointment. We cannot control the location each individual is assigned, other than that it will be on the island of residence.

As the 1B group is completed, information will be sent regarding the next priority group. Students will be in priority 2, unless they work on campus or have specific health issues that qualify them for a higher priority group.

We know how concerned everyone is, but we ask for patience until the vaccine supply stabilizes and the process becomes more predictable. We are doing all we can to ensure that the COVID-19 vaccine doses available are distributed equitably, particularly to those whose current employment duties with UH place them at higher risk. We are aware that some individuals have found ways to “cut in line.” While the vaccine is in short supply, this takes away vaccination opportunities from those who need them most.

The more people who get vaccinated, the sooner we can return to normalcy on our campuses and in our communities. For those with concerns about the vaccines, the decision is yours and that decision will be respected. Here are some excellent resources from our state health department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

And of course, please continue to adhere to all the basic COVID-19 prevention steps even after you are vaccinated: stay home if you are ill, wear a face covering, practice safe physical distancing, avoid gatherings whenever possible, check your health daily with the LumiSight UH app, and download the AlohaSafe app to your mobile phone. These measures are working. Right now, Hawaiʻi has among the lowest COVID-19 infection rate in the country. However, we do have the more infectious variants circulating in the community, so please do not let your guard down!

Mahalo for all you are doing and for your patience. We will provide more information as it becomes available.

E mālama pono,
David Lassner