What We’re Reading: Pfizer/BioNTech Update Vaccine Data; Biden Announces $4 Billion Pledge; Medicare Reduces Hospital Payments

The Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus disease 2019 vaccine can be stored at higher temperatures; the Biden administration pledges $4 billion over 2 years to Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance; Medicare payments will soon decrease for hundreds of hospitals.

Pfizer/BioNTech Release New Vaccine Data

New coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccine storage and effectiveness data from Sheba Medical Center in Israel show that the first dose of Pfizer/BioNTech’s vaccine is 85% effective 15 to 28 days after it is given, reports The Wall Street Journal. Transportation and storage at temperatures of –25°C (–13°F) to –15°C (5°F), vs the current –80°C (–112°F) to –60°C (–76°F), are also possible according to the real-world data. These findings could enable more to get an initial dose of the vaccine, as the results “provide strong arguments in favor of delaying the second dose of the 2-shot vaccine,” the authors note. Close to 9000 individuals were covered in this study, in which the first dose also resulted in 75% reductions in symptomatic and asymptomatic infections.

Biden Pledges Billions for COVID-19 Vaccination Efforts

Up to $4 billion in funding for Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, could be possible through a new push from President Joe Biden and his administration, according to The Washington Post. This money would provide some much-needed aid to COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access, or COVAX, which has yet to begin vaccine delivery. An initial $2 billion would be released first, followed by another $2 billion over 2 years, pending pledge follow-through from other potential donors. The World Health Organization and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations are Gavi’s partners in this effort to ensure equitable vaccine distribution to low- and middle-income countries.

Penalized Hospitals to Get Lower Medicare Payments

High patient infection rates and avoidable medical complications from mid-2017 through 2019 have spurred the government’s move to reduce Medicare payments to 774 hospitals, says Kaiser Health News. The 1% reduction, as part of a program instituted by the Affordable Care Act, will be implemented over 12 months and is not related to the ongoing pandemic. Controversy has plagued the Hospital-Acquired Condition Reduction Program since its inception, with hospitals claiming penalties are arbitrary and the American Hospital Association saying the hard-and-fast rule of punishing 25% of general-care hospitals each year is a flawed measure.