Screenshot of Hartford HealthCare’s Facebook feed as Charles Jameson Muro is vaccinated.

Connecticut children between 12 and 15 began receiving COVID-19 booster shots during a Thursday morning Hartford HealthCare event, which followed an endorsement by federal regulators for the age group to receive supplemental shots late Wednesday. 

The Centers for Disease Control now recommends that people as young as 12 receive a booster dose five months after their initial course of a Pfizer vaccination. 

“This booster dose will provide optimized protection against COVID-19 and the Omicron variant. I encourage all parents to keep their children up to date with CDC’s COVID-19 vaccine recommendations,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said in a statement.

Hartford HealthCare staff began that process here in Connecticut during a morning event at Hartford Hospital. One boy, Charles Jameson Muro, took the booster shot then explained his reasoning.

“It’s just like a helmet or a seatbelt. You may crash. You may fall. But it’s just that much more protection if you do crash or if you do fall,” he said. “It’s really just that extra push to get us out of this pandemic and with the new year, it’s looking very good for us. So stay strong, America.”

The effort to boost the waning immunity of children comes as pediatric hospitalizations with COVID-19 have increased in Connecticut and around the country, according to federal statistics, and the number of general COVID hospitalizations continues to climb, according to the state Public Health Department. As of Wednesday, 1,676 people with COVID were hospitalized in Connecticut. A month ago, there were only 500 people hospitalized with the virus.

During Thursday’s event, Dr. Ulysses Wu, Hartford HealthCare’s chief epidemiologist, said the rise in hospitalizations was driven by the omicron variant, which has proven more infectious than previous strains of the virus, though it may result in more mild disease.

“We do know that hospitalizations are increasing across the country,” Wu said. “That’s not necessarily due to lethality or the deadliness but just by the sheer amount of numbers that are being affected by omicron right now at this point. Really, a lot of it is numbers.”

State and health officials have urged anyone eligible to receive a booster shot as waning immunities have been less effective at fending off serious illness that leads to hospitalizations. As of Wednesday, about 67% of the 1,676 hospitalized COVID patients were not fully-vaccinated. That represents a larger percentage of hospitalized vaccinated people. A month ago, 77% of those in the hospital were unvaccinated.