Amid rising COVID-19 infection rates in Connecticut and elsewhere in the northeast, Gov. Ned Lamont recommended Wednesday that adult residents not wait on federal guidance to get a vaccine booster shot.
“If you’re over 18, go get yourself a booster shot right now if you haven’t had one already,” he said. “[If it’s been] six months since your last shot, get a booster shot. I think that’s the right thing to do. Other states around us are getting … a little more infected. We’re not an island. A booster shot will really protect you, your family, and our state.”
Lamont’s declaration comes one day after state officials in neighboring Rhode Island urged all of their adult residents to get booster shots, regardless of whether they qualify under federal guidelines.
Currently, boosters are permitted for people 65 and older, those 18 and older with underlying health conditions, those 18 and older who live in long-term care settings such as nursing homes, and those 18 and older who work or live in high-risk settings.
Qualifying work places include grocery stores, educational facilities, public transit spaces, manufacturing facilities and prisons, among other locations. The guidance for the final group is broad.
People 18 and older who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine are also eligible to receive a booster shot at least two months after their initial dose.
Drug makers Pfizer and Moderna have both sought federal authorization to expand booster eligibility to everyone 18 and older. The Food and Drug Administration could announce a decision on that as early as this week.
“The [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s] confusing guidance is going to be made clear within 24 hours that says, ‘Go get yourself a booster shot if you’re over 18. It’s been at least six months since your last vaccination. Get a booster,’” Lamont said.
People who were immunized against coronavirus more than six months ago are no longer deemed fully vaccinated, the governor later said.
“I’m saying consider yourself not fully vaccinated if you don’t get that booster, if it’s been, six, nine months,” he said.
In Connecticut, 454,108 people have received a COVID-19 booster shot, according to CDC data, representing 17.8% of the state’s fully vaccinated population.
On Tuesday, the state’s daily positivity rate hit 4.31% for the first time in months. It fell slightly on Wednesday, to 3.38%. Hospitalizations have also ticked up, to 247.
“We are a small state, not an island, people are crossing state lines all the time, and our surrounding states have case rates twice ours,” Dr. Manisha Juthani, the state’s public health commissioner, said in a statement. “It is safe to assume that everyone in CT meets the definition of living in a high-risk community. As we enter the holiday season, boosters are a tool we have to enhance our immunity to COVID-19, protect ourselves and extended families, and reduce transmission of the virus in our communities.”
A handful of other states, including California, New Mexico, Colorado and Arkansas, have bucked federal guidance and urged all adult residents to get booster shots. New York City has also opened eligibility to everyone 18 and older.
Earlier this week, a North Canaan nursing home announced a COVID-19 outbreak.
Since Sept. 30, 67 residents at the Geer Nursing and Rehabilitation Center have contracted the virus and eight have died. Fifty-six residents have recovered, administrators said, and three still have infections. Twenty-two staff members were infected; all have recovered.
“Unfortunately, this outbreak occurred prior to the booster being available. Eighty-seven of the 89 infected staff and residents combined were fully vaccinated so we are obviously concerned we experienced some level of waning immunity,” said Kevin O’Connell, Geer Village Senior Community’s CEO. “Booster shots can now only be provided to all eligible staff and residents per the recommendations of the Department of Health 14 days after this outbreak has ended.”
Lamont encouraged health officials to organize booster shot clinics at nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.
“They’re taking care of the most fragile people. They were the first ones vaccinated, going back 11 months in some cases,” he said. “We’ve got to get those booster clinics right at the nursing homes.”