Hartford HealthCare officials said Monday they are prepared to administer COVID-19 booster shots to those over 65 and others at high risk should they receive the green light from a federal panel this week.
Currently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has authorized third shots of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for patients who are immuno-compromised. These are patients who are on active treatment drugs that may suppress immune response, including cancer patients.
Hartford HealthCare officials hosted a press conference Monday to address some of the confusion around booster shots. They also called Pfizer’s announcement about developing an effective vaccine for children age 5 to 11 “exciting news” that could lead to immunizations starting in October.
HHC is the parent company of MidState Medical Center in Meriden and The Hospital of Central Connecticut in New Britain and Southington.
The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommended to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention booster shots for those over age 65 and people at high risk of developing severe COVID-19. So far, Hartford HealthCare has administered 2,500 third doses to immuno-compromised patients primarily in doctor’s offices.
More than 20,000 third doses have been given statewide, with most going to nursing home patients.
“There are a lot of questions about boosters,” said Keith Grant , senior system director for Infection Prevention, at Hartford Healthcare. “The number of individuals over age 65 falling into the breakthrough group is significant.”
A vaccine breakthrough infection happens when a fully vaccinated person gets infected with COVID-19.
High risk patients include those with diabetes and heart disease, cancer, chronic kidney disease, chronic lung diseases and dementia.
Hartford HealthCare is testing all patients system-wide to catch breakthrough infections.
The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices and the CDC are scheduled to formalize its guidance on Thursday, allowing Hartford HealthCare and others to provide booster shots to those who are eligible. Hospital officials said they have ample doses and roll-out will initially be by appointment. Under 12
Pfizer also announced Monday that its vaccine in lower doses was effective in children ages 5 to 11.
Nationally, pediatric cases of COVID-19 have spiked, Grant said, but not within the hospital system.
“We haven’t seen much of an uptick among children, we’ve seen an uptick I’d say in our 25-and-older,” Grant said.
On Monday, Dr. Ajay Kumar, chief clinical officer at Hartford HealthCare, called the development of a vaccine for those under 12 “exciting news.”
“I think we were hoping by October this would be the case, it looks like that’s what happening. So we will be prepared to advise parents and (the) community at large,” he said during the press conference.