What We're Reading: Rural Ambulance Services; Updated Pfizer Vaccine Efficacy in Israel; 340B Drug Payment Cuts

Ambulance response services in rural communities face increasing recruitment and expense burdens; data from Israel show a decline in Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine efficacy in preventing symptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infection; the US Supreme Court will hear a case on 340B drug payment cuts.

Volunteer Recruitment, Expenses Burdening Rural Ambulance Services

In an article by Kaiser Health News, a spotlight was focused on the increasing difficulty for ambulance services to respond to emergencies in rural communities. With more than half (53%) of rural emergency medical services (EMS) agencies staffed by volunteers, compared with 14% in urban areas, a notable issue reported is the struggle in finding young volunteers to replace retiring emergency medical technicians. Moreover, a financial crisis among rural volunteer EMS agencies was reported, with one-third of agencies noted to be at risk from an inability to cover their operating costs.

Updated Data From Israel Show Decline in Pfizer Vaccine Efficacy

According to government data reported in Israel, the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine was shown to be less effective in preventing symptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infection in recent weeks, although protection remains high against severe disease. Reported by Bloomberg, the vaccine’s efficacy against illness was reported to drop from 94% to 64% based on data from June 6 to early July, which coincided with the lifting of lockdown restrictions and a growing number of cases linked with the Delta variant. The Israeli government detailed plans to study vaccinated individuals who contracted breakthrough infections, assessing for factors such as age, preexisting conditions, and inoculation dates.

Supreme Court to Decide 340B Drug Payment Case

Reported by RevCycleIntelligence, the US Supreme Court announced that it will hear the case on 340B drug payment raised by the American Hospital Association (AHA) and other national hospital groups against HHS’ decision to reduce Medicare reimbursement to hospitals by nearly 30%. After HHS finalized cuts in the 2018 Outpatient Prospective Payment System rule, hospital groups led by the AHA argued that reduced drug payments would harm access to care, as safety-net hospitals would also be impacted. The case is expected to be heard during the Supreme Court’s term starting in October, with a decision expected next year.