Nearly 20,000 third COVID doses already administered in CT, official says

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While the FDA on Friday voted against widespread COVID boosters, Connecticut has already administered nearly 20,000 third doses.

While the FDA on Friday voted against widespread COVID boosters, Connecticut has already administered nearly 20,000 third doses.

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While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has voted against COVID vaccine boosters for the general population, Connecticut has already administered nearly 20,000 third doses to immunocompromised residents, a state health official said.

As of Friday, the state has administered 19,400 third doses, according to Chris Boyle, a spokesperson for the state Department of Public Health.

Those third doses are in line with previous guidance from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. Rick Martinello, director of infectious diseases at Yale New Haven Health, said people who want boosters may be able to get them, regardless of what the FDA recommends.

“All you have to do is check a box saying you meet one of these immunosuppressed criteria,” Martinello said. “We are probably going to see a modest percentage of people who are going to continue to misrepresent themselves.”

Gov. Ned Lamont said last week the state was gearing up to offer boosters to nursing home patients. The FDA, while it voted Friday against boosters for all, approved third doses for people 65 and over and those at risk of severe COVID-19 symptoms.

Asha Shah, director of infectious disease at Stamford Health, said vaccine providers have been preparing for the rollout for weeks.

“That process has been in place,” she said Friday. “We’re just waiting for the green light.”

That rollout should begin “soon,” according to Boyle, who said it will “likely take place over a longer time period than just 10 to 14 days.”

“Vaccines will be administered in nursing homes by a combination of the medical staffs of the facilities as well as the long-term care pharmacies that serve these homes,” he said.

COVID cases among nursing home patients and staff have been rising in recent months, according to the state’s data.

No Connecticut nursing homes reported COVID-19 positive test results the week of June 29, according to state data.

But according to the state’s latest data released Thursday, 24 nursing homes reported COVID cases among staff, while nine facilities reported cases among staff and patients and six others had positive test results among only patients. The statistics exclude eight nursing homes, which did not report their data to the state.

“The Connecticut Department of Public Health has been working with the CDC, long-term care pharmacies, and the nursing home industry to ensure that all nursing homes have access to COVID-19 vaccines for new admissions to their facilities as well as for any booster rollout,” Boyle said.

A slow, deliberate rollout of booster shots by age could help ease some confusion, Martinello said. This time, the cold storage units required for the vaccines are in place, as are the administrative requirements.

“One of the major barriers to getting people vaccinated was complexity related to how we prioritize people, especially early on,” he said.

When the initial rollout of vaccines occurred in Connecticut, it started with nursing homes, which Martinello said made sense.

“I'm very supportive with what we and so many other places ultimately did, where we just said it's nursing home residents, and people who are of this age, and then you expand the ages,” he said.

Boosters, Shah said, are important as both a way to stop the spread of the disease and as a way to prevent the worst COVID symptoms, particularly among those who are at the greatest risk, including “the elderly, nursing home residents, people who live in congregant settings.”

“The ones we’re most concerned about are immunocompromised individuals,” she said. “What we’ve experienced here is that if we are seeing breakthrough cases, the majority of them are not ending up in the hospital. If they do end up in the hospital, they tend to be older in age.”