After CDC approval, COVID booster demand expected to rise in CT

Federal regulators on Friday approved COVID-19 vaccine boosters for all adults.

Federal regulators on Friday approved COVID-19 vaccine boosters for all adults.

Rogelio V. Solis / Associated Press

As Connecticut’s seven-day rolling average of COVID-19 cases has surged by more than 100 percent, health experts say federal approval likely will increase demand for boosters.

Connecticut has had one of the nation’s highest COVID-19 vaccination rates, but has lagged behind in the number of boosters administered, data shows.

The state has 1.7 million eligible adults, but only 454,000 people have received a booster so far, according to state data.

“We may see a slight increase in demand with the expansion of authorization to everyone above the age of 18 and that is something we are prepared for,” said Asha Shah, director of infectious diseases for Stamford Health.

The Food and Drug Administration said Friday that all adults were eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine booster, resolving what many public health officials said was a confusing situation.

The Centers for Disease Control followed later in the day with its own approval, allowing all adults 18 and older to receive a Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 booster at least six months after getting the initial doses. The move came after about a dozen states had started offering boosters to all adults on their own.

Gov. Ned Lamont had stopped short of officially allowing adults to get the booster ahead of the federal approval, but indicated this week that residents could get the extra dose if they had been vaccinated at least six months ago and felt they were at high risk.

“We’re 11 months into the vaccination program, and from my point of view, if you were vaccinated more than six months ago, you’re not fully vaccinated,” Lamont said.

The CDC’s advisers said anyone 18 and older can choose a booster of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine but went an extra step and stressed those age 50 and older should get one.

The announcements came as COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations have again been trending upward in Connecticut. The seven-day rolling average of new cases rose to 738 on Friday, up more than 116 percent in the last 14 days, state data shows.

On Friday, state figures showed 860 new cases were reported out of 26,266 tests for a daily positivity rate of 3.27 percent. There were six more hospitalizations to increase the statewide total to 247.

Prior to the federal approval, only adults ages 65 and over were eligible to receive a booster, as well as people with certain medical conditions. That created a barrier to boosters, according to Yale New Haven Health CEO Chris O’Connor.

“The guidance, other than age 65 and over, is confusing,” O’Connor said. “It just creates this complicated message.”

Federal approval of boosters will “open the doors, from a booster administration perspective,” he said.

For the most part, boosters are available by appointment.

Eric Arlia, senior pharmacy director for Hartford HealthCare, said appointments are intended to “ensure safety as there are several different brands and doses that are used based on the situation.”

“The appointment process allows us to best mitigate these safety risks. We continually assess our appointment availability and adjust if needed,” he said.

When asked if boosters were necessary to combat waning immunity, Keith Grant, senior system director for infection prevention at Hartford HealthCare, said it’s possible.

“The question that I would ask is, ‘Have we seen an increase in breakthrough cases?’ We have, but we haven’t seen an exponential increase,” he said.

Most of the breakthrough cases seen are among people over the age of 65, and Grant suggested it could be because that group was the first to be vaccinated.

“If you look at when vaccines were approved, the first individuals to get their vaccines were people over the age of 65,” he said. But if that is a result of changes in immunity, “and the natural aging process, we’re not 100 percent sure.”

Following the FDA’s approval Friday, Lamont said on Twitter that, “If you were vaccinated more than six months ago, now is the time to get your booster.”

“I urge you to get it because we know that after six months of Pfizer and Moderna along with two months of J&J, immunity wanes,” he said. “Get it before Thanksgiving, before Hanukkah, before Christmas and the New Year, before all those holidays so you can more safely spend time with your friends and loved ones.”