State officials said Connecticut providers will be ready as soon as Friday to begin administering a third dose of the Pfizer-BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine to certain residents following an expected approval of booster shots by the Centers for Disease Control.
A CDC advisory panel on Thursday recommended a third dose of the Pfizer vaccine for people at least 65 years old, people 18 and older with certain high-risk underlying conditions, and residents of long-term care facilities. During a COVID-19 update, Gov. Ned Lamont and advisors said federal regulators were expected to back the recommendations within the next day.
It was the first COVID briefing the governor has had in months.
In Connecticut, the eligible population amounts to more than 270,000 people who administration officials said could begin getting booster shots on Friday.
“You can go to any of 800 [vaccination] sites. In that sense we’re ready,” Lamont said.
The governor said providers would rely on residents to self-report their high-risk conditions rather than requiring them to show proof of their illnesses. People looking to make appointments for booster shots could go to CT.gov/covidvaccine. He said most providers were also taking walkups.
Although providers often experience a rush of patients in the first days of any new vaccine eligibility, Josh Geballe, Lamont’s chief operating officer, said Connecticut had more than adequate doses of the Pfizer vaccine to meet demand.
“We’ve been preparing for this, we’ve been expecting this and our providers have as well,” Geballe said.
The expected CDC action only applies to residents who received their second dose of the Pfizer vaccine more than six months ago. Regulators will consider booster shots for the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson formulas separately. Geballe said about 24,000 immuno-comprimised residents had already received a third dose of a vaccine after regulators approved booster shots for that population last month.
In a press release, Dr. Gerald Harmon, president of the American Medical Association, said the CDC panel’s decision to recommend the booster shots for certain populations would offer further protection against COVID cases, hospitalizations and deaths.
“The latest data shows a decline in vaccine effectiveness against SARS-CoV-2 infection in individuals 65 years of age and older, particularly during the Delta wave. The good news is data also shows that a booster dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, given six months after the primary series, increases the immune response in this population,” Harmon said.
According to the Public Health Department’s weekly COVID update, another 36 Connecticut residents with the disease died in the past week, bringing the statewide total to 8,483. Hospitalizations also climbed by 13 Thursday to 282 but have declined significantly since last Thursday when they stood at 325.
In general, state officials said the surge driven by the more-transmissible delta variant appeared to be subsiding.
“I think we are heading in the right direction,” Dr. Manisha Juthani, who this week began her tenure as state public health commissioner, said. “People have been doing the right things. I think the overall map in the state of Connecticut is looking better than when the delta wave first hit.”
More than 23,000 Connecticut residents completed their vaccine series over the last seven days, bringing the number of people fully-vaccinated to 2,325,396. Another 18,850 sought their first doses.
In addition to the expected approval of booster shots, state officials are also watching for federal recommendations on vaccines for young children. Currently, the Pfizer formula has been authorized on an emergency basis for kids as young as 12.
However, on Monday Pfizer announced that a key trial had shown that a smaller dosage of their vaccine works in children as young as five and the pharmaceutical company planned to seek FDA approval for the five to 11 year-old age group.
Juthani said future approval will help protect younger kids in their classrooms and mitigate their quarantine and testing requirements if they are exposed to the virus.
“We’re seeing how life opens up with vaccination and education can be consistent with vaccination,” Juthani said.