Screen capture of Dr. Scott Gottlieb
Screen capture of Dr. Scott Gottlieb

Connecticut’s older vaccinated residents may require COVID booster shots ahead of the 2021 to 2022 winter season, according to comments from the former head of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, during a Monday press briefing. 

Gottlieb, a Connecticut resident and occasional adviser to Gov. Ned Lamont, struck a largely-optimistic tone during the governor’s briefing. He told reporters he did not expect to see a fourth wave of the COVID-19 virus sweep the nation as some have feared. 

However, he did speculate that some residents, especially the state’s nursing home population, may require a booster of their coronavirus vaccines before the colder weather returns towards the end of this year. 

“[T]here is some decline — not a lot but there is some decline in the [vaccine’s] protection over time. You’re probably going to want your vulnerable population to have maximal immunity heading into the sort of winter 2021 – 2022 COVID season and that would require them to get a booster with a third dose of vaccine,” Gottlieb said. 

Vaccine manufacturers are currently conducting trials looking at the effects of using an additional, later dose of the vaccine to add protection against the virus, he said. Other trials are focused on shots targeted against specific variants of COVID-19, he said. 

During a press briefing last week, Angela Hwang, president of Pfizer’s biopharmaceuticals group, said it was important to remember that booster shots were likely on the horizon given the multiple variants of the virus and the vaccines’ limited timeframe of effectiveness. 

“The need to boost is in our reality and so it will just be a matter of figuring out which time intervals that is,” Hwang said. 

Because many of the state’s oldest residents were vaccinated first — some as early as December and January — Gottlieb said the protection afforded by their vaccines may be among the most diminished when the colder months arrive. 

“I think it’s quite likely that you’re going to want to give another dose of vaccine, at least to some portion of the population heading into the fall,” he said.

Gottlieb said it was an “open question” whether the same would hold true for younger residents. 

“A lot of younger people will have been vaccinated closer to the fall / winter season so their immunity will be more fresh. They’re more likely to derive a stronger immune response from vaccination,” he said.

Lamont said his administration was beginning to think about how it would coordinate with nursing homes to administer a round of booster shots to older residents. He said they also have been working to ensure new arrivals to nursing homes are vaccinated. 

Josh Geballe, Lamont’s chief operating officer, said the state’s nursing home population has a turnover of around 5% each week. 

“We’ve been thinking with the White House about how we make sure we go back for a refresher to the nursing homes — not as Scott said, just at the end of nine months or a year when maybe some of the vaccine is not as effective as it was before — but on a more regular basis than that just to make sure nobody gets left behind in the nursing homes,” Lamont said. 

The governor estimated Monday that 82% of Connecticut residents age 65 or older had gotten at least one shot of a vaccine. More than 2 million doses had been administered statewide. He said roughly 45% of all residents 16 years-old or older had received one. 

Despite worries that the country was heading for a fourth wave, Gottlieb said he believed the nation had crossed an “inflection point” and he expected spikes to be more isolated than in the past. 

“Certain regions right now have a level of infection that’s going to be hard to reverse absent some kind of intervention, but for most parts of the country I think the continued outlook is good,” he said.