As CT school cases rise, 36,000 young kids get COVID vaccine in first weeks of eligibility

Photo of Peter Yankowski
Ava Spergel, 10, gets a COVID vaccine Nov. 13 in Norwalk.

Ava Spergel, 10, gets a COVID vaccine Nov. 13 in Norwalk.

Erik Trautmann / Hearst Connecticut Media

In the first two weeks of eligibility, tens of thousands of Connecticut children as young as 5 years old have started the COVID vaccination process as school cases have risen this month, the state’s data shows.

As of Thursday, 13 percent of children between the ages of 5 and 11 have received their first dose, according to Gov. Ned Lamont’s office. That’s about 36,000 doses that have been administered to this age group, which became eligible on Nov. 2.

Young children receive a dose that’s about one-third of the amount given to those 12 and older.

Some Connecticut children under the age of 12 received the vaccine hours after it was authorized earlier this month. That means that some children can receive their second dose starting next week, and will be fully vaccinated in time for the December holidays.

The rollout of this age group has coincided with a surge in vaccines being administered in Connecticut. The state data shows more than 124,000 total shots were administered in the past week — the most since May.

That comes as overall COVID-19 cases among students and staff in Connecticut schools have risen over the past two weeks. In total, 776 new student cases were reported in the state’s schools over the past week, the data shows, while 150 cases were reported among employees over the same time period. Both have increased since around the end of October and beginning of November. Cases had also spiked midway through September, shortly after students and teachers returned to the classroom.

“It depends on the masking mandates that are in each school system, but with the weather getting colder, a lot of kids spending less time outside — this is invariably going to happen,” said Dr. Ulysses Wu, chief epidemiologist for Hartford HealthCare.

But he said children are also getting the virus from others, namely adults who also aren’t spending as much time outdoors where the virus transmits less easily.

“Unfortunately, with colder weather, it becomes a kind of perfect storm of transmission,” Wu said.

Cases among unvaccinated students have vastly outpaced those who were known to be fully vaccinated. In the past week, 55 fully vaccinated students tested positive for the virus compared to 690 cases among students who were not fully vaccinated, the data shows.

The opposite was true among school staff with 105 cases reported among fully vaccinated staff and 42 among those not fully vaccinated.

“I think what may be happening is there’s asymptomatics that are not being tested,” Wu said.

Earlier this month, Lamont announced revised school quarantine guidelines, which allows fully vaccinated students to remain in school if they are exposed to someone with COVID-19 if they were wearing masks and don’t develop symptoms. Brief contacts without masks — such as during lunch — would also fall under the new policy, so long as social distancing is maintained.

It’s unlikely that policy is tied to an increase in cases, Wu said, but “there may be a pause or an adjustment that’s needed down the road.”