Gov. Ned Lamont and public health officials urged Connecticut residents Monday to stay up-to-date on COVID-19 vaccinations as cases and hospitalizations related to the virus continue to climb amid spread of infectious new subvariants.
Lamont and Public Health Commissioner Dr. Manisha Juthani encouraged vaccine uptake at a mobile clinic held at the Burroughs-Saden Public Library in Bridgeport. Juthani said vaccines were now available for residents aged six months and older and were especially important for school-age children.
“You may be wondering, ‘Do I have to get my kid vaccinated?’ We’re going into our first school season without a mask mandate in place and we’re able to do that because we have these tools at our disposal, specifically vaccines,” Juthani said.
Connecticut has seen slow uptake among children between six months and five years old, who were the last age group recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control to receive a Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine. According to the most recently available data, just under 4% of the roughly 183,000 children in that age group had received a dose.
Lamont said the number of kids in Connecticut hospitals with the virus has climbed.
“Our pediatric admittances are up. That’s an age group six months to five years that are the least likely to be vaccinated,” Lamont said, adding that a lot of parents have a wait-and-see attitude with vaccines. “I wouldn’t wait much longer.”
However, officials also worried about older adults who had not received a recent booster shot. Like the rest of the country, Connecticut’s COVID metrics have been quietly climbing as a result of BA.4 and BA.5, the most easily transmissible COVID variant to date.
As of Friday, the state’s positivity rate stood at 10.5%, though officials believe that number may be underrepresented as a result of unreported home test kits. Hospitalizations, the primary indicator watched by public health officials, was also on the rise last week when it climbed by 29 patients to 293.
Although the new subvariants have been shown to evade the immune responses provided by both prior infections and the available vaccines, officials said vaccination still represented the best tool against severe illness.
“What I would say to parents is even if it has a smaller chance of keeping your child out of the hospital, to me that’s worthwhile,” Juthani said. “Although the vaccine might not be perfect at preventing infection, it certainly does prevent some infection.”
Juthani and Lamont encouraged anyone over 50 who has not received a booster shot in 2022 to get one.
During Monday’s press conference the governor was asked whether he would consider reimposing COVID mitigation measures like indoor mask mandates as a result of the rising number of cases. Lamont said he did not believe such requirements would be necessary.
“My feeling is rather than any need for mandates or the such — appropriate [earlier in the pandemic] — not now. People have the ability to keep themselves safe,” Lamont said.
Lamont, who is 68 years old and often traveling the state amid a reelection campaign, said he does not typically wear a mask indoors.
“I usually don’t. Right now, given where we are with relatively low infection rate,” he said, adding that he prefers outdoor dining at restaurants. “Especially if I’m there with people I know pretty well.”