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Covid-19 cases forcing hospitals to ration care is unfair and unacceptable, expert says

<i>Kyle Green/AP</i><br/>Jack Kingsley R.N. attends to a Covid-19 patient in the Medical Intensive Care Unit at St. Luke's Boise Medical Center in Boise
AP
Kyle Green/AP
Jack Kingsley R.N. attends to a Covid-19 patient in the Medical Intensive Care Unit at St. Luke's Boise Medical Center in Boise

By Madeline Holcombe and Holly Yan, CNN

The magnitude of Covid-19 patients filling hospital beds is avoidable, doctors say. But in some hospitals, patients with or without coronavirus are paying the price.

“We are at the point where not every patient in need will get the care we might wish we could give,” said Dr. Shelly Harkins, chief medical officer of St. Peter’s Health in Helena, Montana.

It’s one of the latest hospitals to resort to crisis standards of care, meaning emergency medicine personnel must ration care.

In those situations, “people who come in in cardiac arrest may not get CPR, and patients who would otherwise get hospitalized may be sent home with loved ones who are going to be scared and not have full capacity to take care of them,” said emergency physician Dr. Megan Ranney, associate dean of the School of Public Health at Brown University.

More than 89,300 people are hospitalized for Covid-19, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services.

And an average of 1,926 people have died from Covid-19 every day this past week, according to Johns Hopkins University. That’s the highest rate since early March.

Vaccines are the best way to prevent Covid-19, but millions of teens and adults are not yet fully vaccinated, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

But there’s “exciting news” for families eager to vaccinate their younger children.

Kids as young as 5 might be able to get vaccinated next month

Pfizer will soon ask the US Food and Drug Administration to authorize its vaccine for children ages 5 to 11 after clinical trial data showed the vaccine is safe and generates “robust” antibody response among children in that age group, the company announced Monday.

If all goes well, the vaccine could be authorized for children ages 5 to 11 “probably by the end of October, perhaps it slips a little bit into November,” former FDA commissioner and current Pfizer board member Dr. Scott Gottlieb told CNBC on Monday.

That would mean another 28 million Americans would be able to get vaccinated, according to a CNN analysis of data from the US Census Bureau.

And that would make 94% of all Americans eligible for vaccination.

“This is exciting news,” emergency physician and CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Leana Wen said Monday.

“So many parents are waiting for exactly this news, especially given what’s happening now with the Delta variant. There have been nearly half a million new cases in children in the last two weeks.”

The Pfizer trial included 2,268 participants ages 5 to 11 and used a 10-microgram dose — smaller than the 30-microgram dose that has been used for those 12 and older.

“The 10 microgram dose was carefully selected as the preferred dose for safety, tolerability and immunogenicity in children 5 to 11 years of age,” Pfizer said.

What to expect for booster doses

Advisers to the FDA on Friday recommended authorizing a booster dose of Pfizer’s vaccine six months after full vaccination — but only for people 65 and older and for those at high risk of severe illness from the virus.

“The reason they made that decision is because of the FDA’s judgement that the goal of vaccination is to prevent severe disease, hospitalization and death — and the only people for whom we’ve seen that two doses don’t do that are the age 60 or 65 plus,” Ranney said.

“For the rest of us, hold tight and stay tuned.”

The CDC is meeting this week with its vaccine advisers, and the agency must give its approval before any booster doses can be officially administered.

The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said he believes a booster shot will likely be recommended for more Americans eventually.

“Data will continue to come in, and I believe you’re going to see an evolution of this process as we go on in the next several weeks to months,” Dr. Anthony Fauci said Sunday.

One evolution could be the evaluation of data for boosters from Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, which Fauci said might come within the next three weeks.

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CNN’s Amanda Sealy, Deidre McPhillips, Naomi Thomas and Aya Elamroussi contributed to this report.

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