BLOOMFIELD, CT – Gov. Ned Lamont pressed the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to give final approval to COVID-19 vaccines Wednesday, saying federal regulators’ ongoing reliance on emergency authorizations discourages vaccine uptake.
“It’s really time for the FDA to step up and make up their minds on these vaccines,” Lamont said following an unrelated press conference. “We’ve gone from Operation Warp Speed to Operation Slow Roll and they still can’t decide whether to give the full authorization for these vaccines.”
The FDA gave emergency authorization to the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines late last year and the Johnson and Johnson formula in February. Since then, more than 2.3 million Connecticut residents have received a dose. But the governor joined a growing list of elected and public health officials urging the FDA to hurry up and award final approval.
Last week, President Joe Biden predicted the FDA may begin to make those decisions as soon as the end of August. In the meantime, the governor said the agency was sending the wrong message to residents who are still anxious about getting the shot.
“I think they’re discouraging some people from getting vaccinated,” Lamont said. “I think that creates a lot more risk and danger in our communities. I think it’s time for them to step up and make the call.”
Lamont’s comments came in response to a question on whether he would follow New York’s lead and ramp up pressure on state workers to get vaccinated. Earlier Wednesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that New York state employees would be required to either get vaccinated or consent to regular COVID testing by Labor Day.
The governor said the vaccine-or-testing policy made sense and he was considering implementing it for Connecticut workers. He said he planned to work with state employee unions and lawmakers to craft any potential requirement.
In a statement, a spokesperson for the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition said the governor had yet to engage state worker unions on the topic.
“At this time, SEBAC has not been approached by the Lamont administration on this matter, but we look forward to carefully considering any proposal that is designed to enhance the safety of both state workers and the public they serve while ensuring a fair and effective system,” the statement read in part.
Lamont said any policy requiring vaccinations from workers was complicated by the pending status of the formula’s final approval.
“[Final approval] would make our lives a lot easier before anybody starts talking about mandates but if they can’t make up their minds, we’ll have to,” Lamont said. “I was going to wait but you can’t wait forever.”
The governor said he was also still considering how Connecticut would implement new guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control, which call for vaccinated and unvaccinated people to resume wearing masks indoors in areas considered to have “substantial” or “high” rates of COVID transmission. As of Wednesday afternoon, Hartford and New London Counties now fell into the substantial category.
In Bloomfield, Lamont said his administration was taking a look at the new guidelines and would announce a decision in the next two weeks to give parents and teachers time to prepare for the coming school year.
“There’s no question about it, masking is incredibly effective when it comes to our kids and when it comes to those who are unvaccinated but I don’t want to take our eye off the ball. We’re doing everything we can to get more people vaccinated,” he said.
Lamont also noted that the emergency powers declarations, which he has used to issue pandemic-related policies, were set to expire on Sept. 30. He said it was too soon Wednesday to say whether they would be needed after that time.
The governor told reporters he would lean towards guidelines rather than rigid mandates when it comes to ongoing pandemic policy.
“There’s a balance you have to reach,” he said. “You know, rules only work if people generally think you’re going in the right direction and 98% of them are self enforced.”