COVID boosters begin for hundreds of thousands
Department of Public Health: “Providers across the state” are prepared to administer the shots
Connecticut residents over the age of 65 or who are in high-risk jobs began receiving a booster shot of the COVID vaccine developed by Pfizer Friday.
The Yale New Haven Health system said it had begun administering third doses for those 65 and older, those 18 to 64 who are at high risk of severe COVID-19 due to medical issues and healthcare workers. The state has said hundreds of thousands qualify for the boosters.
The state had previously begun providing third doses of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to immunocompromised residents, with about 24,000 already receiving a third shot.
Also on Friday, the state reported a positive test rate of 1.88 percent, with 470 new cases reported, and no change in the number of people in hospitals with COVID-19.
Chris Boyle, a spokesman for the state Department of Public Health, said “hundreds of provid
ers across the state” are prepared to administer the shots. Whether an appointment is needed will depend on the vaccine provider.
People seeking a booster shot may be asked for an ID, but they cannot be turned away if they do not have one, Boyle said. Similarly, people cannot be turned away if they fail to show proof of a qualifying medical condition or atrisk occupation, he said.
The boosters apply only to people who received the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. No recommendation has been made for people who received the vaccines from Johnson & Johnson or Moderna. The shots are recommended 6 months after those individuals have completed their first round of doses.
A Pfizer spokesperson said Friday the National Institutes of Health is currently studying mixing the vaccine with other doses. “Our perspective is, we’ve only studied it with our vaccine alone. We haven’t conducted a study on the mixing of it,” said Jerica Pitts, director of global media relations for Pfizer.
“This is a very positive step from CDC and FDA,” said Hartford HealthCare Chief Medical Officer Dr. Ajay Kumar, referring to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. “I’m excited that we’re able to offer the booster to a larger community at this time, this is going to make our place safer and communities safer.”
He called the step a “positive direction, despite some confusion,” speaking during a virtual press conference Friday afternoon.
The rollout caps months of debate among federal health officials over whether booster shots of the vaccine would be necessary.
On Thursday, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, recommended adding those in “high risk occupational and institutional settings,” such as teachers and prison guards, to the list of those eligible to receive boosters.
More than 1.4 million people have received at least a first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in Connecticut, according to state data. The vaccine has been approved by the FDA for people over the age of 16 under the market name Comirnaty, and is authorized for children as young as 12 under an emergency use authorization.
Eric Arlia, pharmacy system director at Hartford HealthCare said the hospital system will require people to sign up for an appointment for booster shots. Those looking to get their first or second dose of the vaccine will still be able to walk up for a shot, he said.
“This will help us make sure that we have adequate supply at all of our clinics,” Arlia said.
He said the reasoning behind the boosters is the presence of breakthrough infections in some age groups. “While their symptoms appear to be more mild than someone who wasn’t vaccinated — I want to stress that — we’re finding... it seems like this is a point in time where this can be making a difference for those populations,” he said.
People will be asked to attest that they fall into one of the categories of people eligible for the shot, Arlia said, and from there they will be directed to locations offering appointments. Currently, Hartford HealthCare has 17 locations offering the vaccine, all of which offer Pfizer.
He said the hospital system is working to set up the process, which he feels confident will be ready by the end of the day Friday, with the system ready to schedule appointments starting on Monday. Those eligible should expect to bring their vaccine card with them in order to keep their records up to date, he said.
“We definitely feel confident that we have plenty of vaccine, I can assure everyone of that,” he added.
Supply of the necessary doses will not be an issue, Boyle said. “We have more than an adequate supply of Pfizer booster doses,” Boyle said during a brief phone interview Friday morning.
The move contradicted the recommendations of the committee advising the CDC, which recommended boosters should only go to those in long-term care facilities, those over the age of 65 and people with underlying conditions over the age of 18. Walensky accepted those recommendations.
Yale said boosters were available by appointment at the following locations:
YNHHS Site, 200 Orchard St, New Haven, CT
Bridgeport Hospital Primary Care Center Building, 226 Mill Hill Ave., Bridgeport, CT
Northeast Medical Group (NEMG) Office, 4a Devine Street, North Haven, CT
NEMG Office, 1152 Kings Hwy Cutoff, Fairfield, CT
NEMG Office, 194 Howard Street, New London, CT