Lamont: State ‘ready to go’ if COVID boosters get green light
As the federal government may soon recommend a COVID-19 vaccine booster amid a surge in infections driven by the delta variant, Connecticut officials say they will “do what it takes” to get residents additional doses.
The New York Times, citing officials within the Biden administration, said the decision for a booster could come as early as this week, but hinges on approval by the Food and Drug Administration.
“We’re ready to go . ... We’ve got plenty of vaccine. We’ve got the distribution facilities in place,” Gov. Ned Lamont said Tuesday. “When they say green light for those who
are older ought to get a booster, we’ll be ready. My hunch, if I had to guess, they are going to give us the green light for those in nursing homes first.”
While boosters have been discussed amid the spread of the highly transmissible delta variant, federal regulators had until recently not approved additional doses. Last week, the FDA approved additional doses of PfizerBioNTech and Moderna vaccines for those who are moderately to severely immunocompromised — a relatively small group of the general population.
Connecticut officials said they would follow the latest recommendation for administering a third dose to those who are immunocompromised. While they do not have an exact number of people affected, state officials believe it’s a small group of residents and supply will not be a problem.
“We’ll do what it takes to get the people who need that booster, vaccinated,” Lamont said Tuesday. “My instinct is right now that with our pharmacy partners and our medical providers, that may be enough. We are also bringing mobile vaccines to high schools and such.”
For a broader booster program, officials are also confident the supply will not be an issue, like it was early in the vaccine program.
How a booster rollout would look in Connecticut depends on what the federal government may recommend, officials said.
Acting Department of Public Commissioner Deidre Gifford said she was “not sure” if mass vaccination sites would return.
“It depends on how broad their dose recommendation is,” she said.
Unlike initial vaccine rollout, Gifford said primary care physician will be involved in administering
Gifford noted on Tuesday the third dose being administered to those who are immunocompromised does not equate to a booster. She said the CDC has been clear that the third dose is given to these individuals because they do not get an adequate immune response from two doses. Meanwhile, a booster is meant to address waning immunity over a period of months.
A potential booster recommendation comes as Connecticut has seen a slowing of the overall vaccination rate. After early demand for the vaccine, weekly doses administered dropped sharply in late June and July, state statistics show.
Dr. Jo-Anne Passalacqua, an infectious disease specialist with Hartford Healthcare and St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Bridgeport, has heard about the likelihood of booster vaccines, but anticipates residents might have some resistance to the idea.
“I think it’s going to be a lot for people to sort of wrap their minds around. We’re still rolling out the first round of vaccine, and talking about second round of vaccine is maybe going to be hard for people,” she said.
While the pace of vaccine administration has fallen off, Connecticut has among the highest vaccination rates in he country. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly 74 percent of all eligible state residents are fully vaccinated and more than 82 percent have received at least one dose.
Now eight months into the vaccine program, Passalacqua said she’s seen a significant number of breakthrough infections — COVID cases in people who have been fully vaccinated.
“We’re not seeing critical illness and death in fully vaccinated people, but we are seeing illness and, in some cases, hospitalization,” she said. “That makes you think it might be a real benefit to this booster situation.”