What We’re Reading: Pfizer CEO on Approval Timeline; AstraZeneca, Oxford Results Reviewed; Surprise Billing Legislation Hits Snag

Pfizer CEO shares his expectations for its coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccine approval; peer review results are in for AstraZeneca and Oxford University’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate; there are now competing legislative proposals on surprise medical billing protection.

Pfizer Chief Expects Vaccine Approval Soon

With his company’s coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccine already being distributed in the United Kingdom, Pfizer CEO and Chairman Albert Bourla, DVM, PhD, seems confident about imminent approval from the FDA, reports Reuters, following an early-week meeting with a US vaccine advisory panel. During a press call yesterday, he also shared that Pfizer and BioNTech are collaborating on a newer vaccine that can withstand higher temperatures, possibly enabling easier distribution. Currently, the vaccine must be stored at -70°C, although the partners say it can also be stored at 2°C and 8°C.

More Research Needed on AstraZeneca, Oxford University Vaccine Candidate

The potential vaccine from AstraZeneca and Oxford may have hit a bump in the road, according to an article published online yesterday in The Lancet and Reuters. Despite reports of 90% efficacy, this newest study aimed to elucidate on what many called “a lack of information” following the partners’ announcement last month about their vaccine candidate, ChAdOx1 nCoV-19. These results, pooled from 4 ongoing trials, show an overall efficacy of 70.4%, which is above the FDA’s 50% minimum but far below the aforementioned 90%. The authors point out that more research is needed, especially because few data are available on the potential vaccine’s efficacy in older individuals.

Bipartisan Approval on Hold for Protective Measure Against Surprise Medical Bills

A 2-year effort to arrive at an equitable solution to safeguard against excessive bills for routine medical care is mired in now-competing proposals, according to The Hill, despite concerted efforts from the House Energy and Commerce, House Education and Labor, and Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committees. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, D-Massachusetts, may be the lone holdout, reportedly being unwilling to concede any ground on his own proposal. Despite both sides agreeing that patients deserve protection against massive, unexpected bills, division remains on how much insurers will need to pay in the end.