As kids head back to school, health officials concerned about sluggish COVID vaccination rates
With most Connecticut students heading back to school next week, health officials are worried about COVID outbreaks as mask requirements are gone and vaccine booster rates stall.
On Tuesday, state leaders visited a mobile clinic at Cove Island in Stamford, hoping to catch kids soaking up one last week of summer sun.
"We need to get the message out to parents that it's important to get our youngest kids vaccinated," said Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz.
According to the Connecticut Department of Public Health, only 8% of children age 0-4 have at least one dose. The numbers are much higher for older kids:
• Age 5-9: 50%
• Age 10-14: 73%
• Age 15-24: 85%
Those rates may look high, but the state public health commissioner says many students don't have a booster shot, putting them at greater risk.
"Our booster rates are lower, certainly with the 12-plus year-olds," said DPH Commissioner Dr. Manisha Juthani.
Juthani believes many parents are waiting for the new Omicron-focused booster, expected in a few weeks. But the White House says only people 12 and over are likely to be eligible.
"If you didn't do it back then, and now you're looking at the beginning of the school year and we're looking at potentially a new booster available for people 12 and older -- only for those 12 and older would I say that I would wait for that recommendation," said Juthani.
Connecticut doesn't know how many Omicron doses it's getting yet, but Juthani says the first priority is boosting nursing home residents and hospital workers.
"Really making sure the health care workforce is immunized, because I am concerned about workforce shortages that we know exist in health care," she said.
Also a challenge? Vaccine misinformation. A lone protester stood near Tuesday's news conference, falsely claiming the COVID vaccine has killed or paralyzed large numbers of teens.
Addressing the woman indirectly, state Rep. Hubert Delany (D-Stamford) said: "For those who do not believe in the vaccine, it is your choice to not believe. But for everyone else, we will do our best to make sure that these resources are readily available to you."
Connecticut recently relaxed COVID guidance for classrooms. In Stamford, the city health director says they will hold mobile vaccine clinics outside most schools at the end of the school day. The state is also distributing 2 million at-home COVID test kits for students.