Coronavirus vaccine
SARS-CoV-2 vaccine in a box. (M-Foto via shutterstock)

As federal regulators have expanded eligibility for COVID-19 vaccine booster shots, the rate Connecticut residents have taken supplemental doses so far seems comparable to surrounding states, according to numbers from the Public Health Department. 

As of Oct. 18, the most current statistics available, about 145,500 Connecticut residents had received third doses or booster shots of a COVID vaccine. Public health officials consider “additional dose” a term for a patient whose immune system did not mount an adequate response to the vaccination cycle. “Booster shot,” meanwhile, applies to a supplemental dose for patients whose immune responses have diminished over time. 

A spokesman for the Department of Public Health said the agency no longer tracks the size of the population eligible to receive booster shots because the scope of the group keeps changing. But as a percentage of the overall population, Connecticut residents have opted for booster shots at a rate somewhat consistent with other states in the Northeast region.

As of Oct. 13, about 3.1% of Connecticut’s overall population had received supplemental doses, according to Christopher Boyle, a spokesman for the Public Health Department. The same comparison showed uptake rates at 3.4% in Rhode Island, 3.1% in New Jersey, 2.4% in New York, and 2.6% in Pennsylvania not counting the city of Philadelphia, where numbers were not available, Boyle said. 

More recent numbers put Massachusetts well ahead of the above states. As of Monday, the state had administered about 336,000 booster shots, which equates to about 4.7% of its population. 

Boyle said state public health officials saw Connecticut’s vaccination effort trending in a positive direction. As of Thursday, 2,387,601 Connecticut residents had been fully vaccinated. 

“We’re one of the top states in the country with our overall vaccine coverage. For instance, [ages] 75 plus, 92% of the population has been vaccinated and 65 plus it’s 94.8%. So, we’re certainly trending in the right direction with our overall vaccine rates and things are moving in the right direction with the third doses and boosters as well,” Boyle said.

More than a third of Connecticut residents who have opted to receive booster shots, about 56,000, have been between the ages of 65 and 74 years old. Residents between 75 and 84 make up the next largest group at around 41,000.

Last week, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control expanded its recommendations for booster shots to include anyone who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine more than two months ago. The CDC also recommends an additional shot for people older than 65, and those with conditions that put them at a greater risk from the COVID-19 virus. 

“The reality is that, now, thousands of individuals across Connecticut are eligible for booster doses – regardless of which vaccine they originally received,” Dr. Manisha Juthani, public health commissioner, said in a press release. “I encourage individuals who received the J&J vaccine as well as everyone over 65 to make a plan to get a booster once the necessary amount of time has passed.” 

More than 500 locations across Connecticut were administering booster shots as of last week, according to the Public Health Department. 

Regulators also eased their guidelines so patients looking for supplemental doses are no longer bound to receive the same vaccine formula as their initial vaccination cycle. With regard to booster shots, the formulas can now be mixed and matched interchangeably. 

As of Monday afternoon, Connecticut’s COVID rates remained relatively low. Since Friday, 1.55% of tests have returned positive results. Over the weekend, the number of patients hospitalized with the virus increased by one to 212.