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COVID-19: Subvariant Looms, Vaccine Bill Proposed

 

Last updated 2/11/2022 at 11:22am



The coronavirus and its variants continue to loom across the country, and many are wondering when will it ever end?

The state of California has proposed two bills that are getting some resistance.

The state would allow children age 12 and up to be vaccinated without their parents’ consent under a proposal introduced by a state senator. Currently in California, minors ages 12 to 17 cannot be vaccinated without permission from their parents or guardians, unless the vaccine is specifically to prevent a sexually transmitted disease.

The bill by Democratic Sen. Scott Wiener would lift the parental requirement for that age group for any vaccine that has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If the bill passes, California would allow the youngest age of any state to be vaccinated without parental permission. That includes immunizations against the coronavirus.

Responding to criticism that the bill would limit parents’ oversight of their children’s health, Wiener said that California state law already allows people 12 and older to consent to the Hepatitis B and Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines and to treatments for sexually transmitted infections, substance abuse and mental health disorders. But it likely won’t take effect until later this year and allows exemptions for medical reasons, religious and personal beliefs – though lawmakers may try to limit non-medical reasons.

Another bill being proposed in the state would require the COVID-19 vaccine for all students, Kindergarten through 12th grade starting January 1, 2023.

A state lawmaker said he wants to ensure that all school students in San Diego and throughout the state are vaccinated against COVID-19.

Under state law, personal belief exemptions must be allowed for any newly required childhood vaccine unless the legislature passes a law banning them.

Governor Gavin Newsom has announced a statewide school vaccination mandate, but it will not take effect statewide until a vaccine receives full approval from the Food and Drug Administration. Pan’s bill would require the shots even if they are only being offered under an emergency use authorization by the FDA. However, many people are opposed to these new proposed bills, stating it takes away their rights and pushing vaccines on children and others is unconstitutional.

The Borrego Springs Unified School District received their shipment of at-home COVID-19 tests and N95 masks on Jan. 26.

One COVID-19 test kit and five N95 masks were available per middle/high school. To receive the N95 masks, a waiver had to be signed from the district at the time of pick up.

With vaccine mandates for businesses and other occupations, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration pulled the vaccine and testing rules for businesses.

The Supreme Court’s conservative majority blocked the rules, saying OSHA had exceeded the authority given to the agency by Congress.

President Joe Biden’s administration formally withdrew its vaccine and testing mandate for businesses, after the Supreme Court blocked the requirements.

Scientists and health officials around the world are keeping their eyes on a descendant of the omicron variant that has been found in at least 40 countries, including the United States and right here in California.

This version of the coronavirus, which scientists call BA.2, is widely considered stealthier than the original version of omicron because particular genetic traits make it somewhat harder to detect. Some scientists worry it could also be more contagious.

Since mid-November, more than three dozen countries have uploaded nearly 15,000 genetic sequences of BA.2 to GISAID, a global platform for sharing coronavirus data. The mutant appears much more common in Asia and Europe.

For now, the original version, known as BA.1, and BA.2 are considered subsets of omicron. But global health leaders could give it its own Greek letter name if it is deemed a globally significant “variant of concern.” The quick spread of BA.2 in some places raises concerns it could take off.

Scientists there are still looking into this version’s infectiousness and how well current vaccines work against it. It’s also unclear how well treatments will work against it.

Doctors also don’t yet know for sure if someone who’s already had COVID-19 caused by omicron can be sickened again by BA.2. But they’re hopeful, especially that a prior omicron infection might lessen the severity of disease if someone later contracts BA.2.

The original version of omicron had specific genetic features that allowed health officials to rapidly differentiate it from delta using a certain PCR test because of what’s known as “S gene target failure.” BA.2 doesn’t have this same genetic quirk.

Two cases of the new omicron subvariant BA.2 detected in Santa Clara County are believed to be the first such cases in the Bay Area.

In California, there have been at least 11 confirmed BA.2 cases.

With the virus continuing to spread, at-home test kits or testing at your local areas have become essential. To order your free COVID-19 tests, you’d need to provide some information to the U.S. Postal Service. You will not be asked to provide any credit or debit card details, and shipping is free. Each household order will contain four rapid tests. The White House says it will prioritize shipments to Americans from ZIP codes that have experienced high rates of COVID-19 cases and deaths, with the first 20% of each day’s orders going to those areas.

1. Visit special.USPS.com/testkits. You can also get there via covidtests.gov.

2. Enter your contact details and shipping information.

3. Click Check Out Now.

4. Verify your information is correct and select Place My Order.

The Postal Service said it will start shipping the COVID-19 test kits in late January. All orders will be shipped through First Class Package Service.

People who can’t access the website or who have trouble ordering online can call a hotline – 1-800-232-0233 – to order their free tests.

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