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Hartford HealthCare doctors share updates on breakthrough cases, booster shots

While fully vaccinated people make up about 25% to 27% of people hospitalized with COVID-19 across the Hartford HealthCare system, only about 10% of those people are coming to the hospital because of COVID-19, Chief Clinical Officer Dr. Ajay Kumar said in a briefing Monday.

"Most of them are coming with falls or trauma, cellulitis, something else, and because we test everybody, they turn out to be positive," he said. Kumar said the vaccinated people who do test positive are "not requiring a significant amount of care or ICU care, and they make a good recovery as well."

He said there is "ample evidence right now the vaccine has reduced mortality and reduced hospitalization."

Connecticut has the second-highest vaccination rate in the country, with 67.1% of the population fully vaccinated. According to Gov. Ned Lamont's office, 327 patients were hospitalized with COVID-19 statewide on Monday, and 72.2% of them aren't fully vaccinated. The test positivity rate is 2.34%.

Kumar said Hartford HealthCare had 107 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 on Monday, including 20 at Backus Hospital in Norwich. He said hospitalizations peaked Aug. 26 and plateaued the past several weeks, hovering around 110.

"The way that people are looking at vaccines is they were looking at it as prevention of disease, and that's really not the way to look at it," said Dr. Ulysses Wu, director of infectious diseases for Hartford HealthCare. He said it's "really about protecting those who get the disease" and making the illness less severe.

How is Hartford HealthCare handling booster shots?

The Food and Drug Administration in August amended its emergency use authorizations for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccinations to allow for an additional dose in certain immunocompromised individuals.

"We are very well-positioned," Kumar said, noting that Hartford HealthCare has sent out messages to people who are immunocompromised, and that there is a fair amount of capacity in existing vaccine clinics. He said if a patient doesn't have one of the listed conditions, Hartford HealthCare will accept a physician's note.

In a review published in The Lancet on Monday, a group of scientists said booster shots may be useful in some people who are immunocompromised but aren't yet necessary for the general population. A Food and Drug Administration advisory committee is scheduled to review Pfizer's data supporting a booster shot this Friday.

Kumar said when Hartford HealthCare learns more on booster shots for the larger population, it will update its website to inform the public.

Wu said booster shots are expected to be the same type of vaccine, meaning someone who got two Pfizer shots wouldn't get the Moderna for their third dose, for example.

e.moser@theday.com

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