VERNON, CT — Gov. Ned Lamont and Connecticut’s public health commissioner sought Thursday to clarify what they called confusing guidance from federal regulators and urged adults to get a COVID-19 booster shot if they were vaccinated more than six months ago.
During a morning press conference outside Rockville General Hospital, Lamont and Dr. Manisha Juthani, commissioner of public health, stressed that the vaccine’s effectiveness wanes over time.
“From my point of view, if you were vaccinated more than six months ago, you’re not fully vaccinated,” Lamont said. “If you were vaccinated more than six months ago, now is the time to go get that booster. I urge you to get it now.”
The recommendation splits from the current guidelines of federal regulators and mirrors steps taken by other states in the region including Rhode Island earlier this week and Massachusetts on Thursday morning.
Although a Food and Drug Administration panel is expected to meet later this week to discuss expanding eligibility, current federal guidelines limit who is technically eligible to receive a booster shot.
At the moment, the Centers for Disease Control suggests supplemental vaccine doses for anyone 65 or older who received their second Pfizer or Moderna shot more than six months ago and anyone who received a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson shot more than two months ago. The guidelines also make eligible a large population including anyone more than six months since their last shot who has certain high risk medical conditions or works in certain jobs or lives in a congregate setting.
On Thursday, the governor deemed those guidelines over-complicated.
“CDC speaks Latin. I can’t figure out who’s eligible, who’s not eligible. If you smoked while you were in high school, back in the 1970s you’re eligible,” Lamont said. “I think if you haven’t been vaccinated in more than six months, now’s the time to get the booster.”
Lamont urged Connecticut providers to administer booster shots to any adult seeking one, regardless of the federal guidelines. So far about 454,000 people in Connecticut have received booster shots, according to the CDC. That’s about 17.8% of the residents who are fully-vaccinated.
The push to encourage booster shot uptake comes ahead of expected COVID transmission during the holidays and midst elevated cases in Connecticut and elsewhere. On Wednesday, Connecticut’s infection rate stood at 3.38% after jumping as high as 4.31% on Tuesday. Hospitalizations have also increased to 247 after dipping beneath 200 earlier this month.
Although patients hospitalized with the virus have been predominantly unvaccinated people, around 70% as of last week, the state continues to see breakthrough cases of COVID-19 and had recorded more than 19,300 as of the last weekly update. Public health officials said declining vaccine immunity contributes to the breakthrough cases.
“If you got vaccinated seven, eight, nine, 10 months ago like I did since I was first vaccinated in December and January, your immunity is most certainly waning,” Juthani said. “We have an opportunity to get people boosted here in Connecticut to fight this next wave that is coming.”
Juthani challenged long term care facilities to hold booster clinics before Dec. 15 to provide booster shots to both patients and staff whose immunity have waned since they were initially vaccinated. Lamont agreed.
“It’s absolutely something we gotta do. We gotta get those booster clinics right at the nursing homes. They’re taking care of the most fragile people. They were the first ones vaccinated now going back 11 months in some cases,” Lamont said.