Connecticut officials are looking into the possibility of having to eventually administer booster shots of the COVID-19 vaccines in nursing homes, while also vaccinating new residents and staff who are coming into the facilities without having had a shot, Gov. Ned Lamont said Monday.
About 5% of the nursing home population has been turning over each week in Connecticut. The newcomers are overwhelmingly not vaccinated, said Josh Geballe, Lamont's chief operating officer. As a short-term fix, the state has asked the Connecticut National Guard to vaccinate those new admissions.
“But in the meantime, we’ve also been working with our acute care hospitals to make sure that they’re vaccinating on discharge,” said Geballe, adding that nursing homes have been told they need to have a “vaccination partner” established with a pharmacy or other organization to ensure that the vaccination of new residents and staff is "being done on a sustainable, ongoing basis going forward."
Lamont told reporters during his COVID-19 briefing that his administration has been “thinking about” the possibility of having to administer booster shots to nursing home residents, a segment of the Connecticut population that was hit especially hard by the pandemic.
Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration and a Connecticut resident, said Monday that it's “quite likely that you’re going to want to give another dose of vaccine, at least to some portion of the population heading into the fall.” He noted that the most vulnerable portions of the state's population, people living in nursing homes and people over the age of 70, got their shots in December, January and early February.
“So come September, October, they’re going to be almost a year out from vaccination,” said Gottlieb, noting that the clinical data show some decline in protection from COVID-19 over time. “You’re probably going to want your vulnerable population to have maximal immunity heading into the sort of winter 2021-22 COVID-19 season. And that would require them to get the booster with a third dose of the vaccine.”
Gottlieb said it's a “an open question” whether younger people will get a booster shot.
In other coronavirus-related news:
MOBILE VACCINATION UNITS
The state this week, in cooperation with local health departments, is rolling out 35 new yellow mobile vaccination vans that will initially travel to parts of the state where COVID vaccination rates are trailing. The mobile units are expected to administer the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, most initially by appointment.
By late April, when the state expects to have at least 60% of residents vaccinated with at least one dose, the vans will provide “walk-up service,” similar to an ice cream truck, Lamont said. They'll also be used at high school and college-based clinics.
“You’ll be able to walk up and get a vaccine,” Lamont said.
SICK DAYS AT SCHOOL
Several Connecticut school districts have been forced to close or stop in-person learning for a day, after educators attending vaccine clinics called in sick with side effects from the shot.
Manchester schools reported a shortage of teachers and bus drivers on Monday after a vaccine clinic for educators was held there over the weekend.
“I understand the challenges this causes for parents and families and had hoped to avoid going remote for the day,” Matt Geary, the town's school superintendent wrote to the community Monday. “I apologize for the inconvenience.”
A similar incident caused a Colchester elementary school to close for a day last month and forced Stamford schools to delay a return to in-person learning for one day.
In Region 13, which includes Durham and Middlefield, officials proactively scheduled a day off for Monday after a clinic was scheduled on April 3 to give educators their second vaccine dose.
“The good news is that we held one snow day in reserve for this exact scenario, so we do not need to adjust our calendar or change the graduation date,” Superintendent Doug Schuch wrote.
Southington officials made a similar decision last month, giving staff a day off the Monday after a March 14 clinic.
Typical side effects of the vaccines include pain, redness and swelling on the arm the shot was administered to and tiredness, a headache, muscle pain, chills, fever and nausea, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
COVID CYBER CRIME
The shift over the past year to remote work prompted a large increase in phishing and other cybersecurity threats during the initial months of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new report released Monday by Connecticut’s Public Utilities Regulatory Authority.
The annual Public Utilities Critical Infrastructure Report assessed last year’s cybersecurity vulnerabilities and policies of regulated electric, gas and water utilities. It found that utility company cybersecurity programs had to quickly scale up in order to enable employees to connect remotely and safely to company networks.
“In general, this massive societal shift to remote work prompted malicious actors as a whole to change priorities,” according to the report. It noted that while the frequency of ransomware attacks generally declined because schools, businesses, and other organizations stopped or scaled-back operations, more phishing attempts were made against personal accounts and systems, as well as virtual meeting platforms.
The report also found third party vendors that provide external services to utility companies remained vulnerable.