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How to Get Questions Answered about COVID-19 Booster Shots

If you’re confused about whether you need to get a COVID-19 vaccine booster shot, you’re not alone. We’re hearing from many küpuna who are wondering what they should do since President Joe Biden pledged to make booster shots available this month. At AARP we are doing our best to explain what happens next.

We follow the news and talk to experts, state and federal officials about plans to make COVID-19 booster shots available, especially to küpuna who are the most vulnerable. We are encouraging thestate to make sure there are phone information lines (in addition to online information) for küpuna who have trouble accessing the internet and prefer talking to real people.

We also want to make sure information is available in different languages for many immigrant küpuna in Hawai‘i and that there’s a process to get booster shots to people who are in nursing homes, care homes and who are homebound.

The Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are still reviewing information submitted by vaccine makers. Until the FDA and CDC make a recommendation, no one, not even the president, can say that it’s time for you to get a booster shot.

We do know that those who are fully vaccinated and immunocompromised may need an additional dose to get the same immunity as people who are not immunocompromised. Those who need an additional COVID-19 vaccination include people who are receiving active cancer treatment, organ transplant and stem cell transplant patients, those with HIV, those taking medications that may suppress immune response and those with diseases that create immune deficiency. Check with your physician to see if you should get the additional vaccine dose. The immunocompromised are eligible for the additional shot now.

For everyone else, AARP Hawai‘i is holding a Telephone Town Hall on Wednesday, Sept. 22 at 6:30 p.m. Those on the telephone forum will get a chance to ask questions directly to State Epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Kemble.

The Telephone Town Hall will also be simulcast on the AARP Hawai‘i Facebook page. To register to get a phone call, go to vekeo.com/aarphawaii. If you do not have Internet access, you can call toll-free (833) 305-0175 at 6:30 p.m. on Sept. 22 to participate.

We’re planning a follow-up booster vaccine webinar with the state Health Department next month. To find out more about the webinar go to aarp.org/hi or the AARP Hawai‘i Facebook page and click on “Upcoming Events.”

AARP also has the latest news about booster shots at aarp.org/vaccineinfo. In addition, the AARP Hawai‘i webpage at
aarp.org/hi features an article that is updated with information on getting the vaccine in Hawai‘i. 

The Department of Health also has a phone line to call for vaccine and booster information that’s open during business hours Monday through Friday at 808-586-8332. People with vaccine questions can also call the Aloha United Way’s 211 Call Center at 2-1-1. The AUW211 call center is open seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.

The initial rollout of the vaccine in Hawai‘i was rocky with more demand than supply of the vaccine. We’re urging the state to use the lessons learned from that experience to make sure that the administration of booster shots is a smoother process.

A version of this column was originally published in The Hawai`i Herald.

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