In The News

A second version of omicron is spreading. Here's why scientists are on alert

Just as the omicron surge starts to recede in parts of the U.S., scientists have their eye on another coronavirus variant spreading rapidly in parts of Asia and Europe. It's officially called "omicron BA.2," and this week scientists detected cases of it in several U.S. states, including California, Texas and Washington.

Although BA.2 is currently rare in the U.S., scientists expect it to spread in the country over the next month. There's growing evidence that it's just as contagious as — or possibly a bit more contagious than — the first omicron variant, called "omicron BA.1."

"It could be that BA.2 does have some small advantage," says Emma Hodcroft, an epidemiologist at the University of Bern who has been tracking variants all around the world throughout the pandemic via the Nextstrain project. "BA.2 might well be, like, 1% to 3% more transmissible, or something like that."

So the big question now is, will that small difference be enough for this variant to lengthen the ongoing surge in the U.S., as it has in Denmark?

What is omicron BA.2?

You can think of BA.2 as a sibling of BA.1, Hodcroft says. They share a bunch of mutations — about 30 or so — but they also have a bunch of mutations that are unique.

"They are quite similar, but they're also different," she says. "So very much like siblings, in my opinion. Different but obviously related."

Back in November, when scientists in South Africa and Botswana discovered omicron, they didn't find just one version. They found three, called BA.1, BA.2 and BA.3 by the Phylogenetic Assignment of Named Global Outbreak Lineages at the University of Edinburgh.

The first one, BA.1, took off rapidly and spread around the world, including in the United States. And initially, it looked like BA.2 and BA.3 were weaker and less able to keep up with BA.1.

"We thought, 'OK, BA.2 is just not as fit as its sibling BA.1, and it will kind of peter out,' " Hodcroft says.

But that's not what happened — not at all...

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Moderna Announces First Participant Dosed in Phase 2 Study of Omicron-Specific Booster Candidate

Phase 2 study of Omicron-specific booster candidate mRNA-1273.529) will include two cohorts: one including participants who received the two-dose primary series of mRNA-1273 and another including participants who received the two-dose primary series and a 50 µg booster dose of mRNA-1273

Omicron neutralization six months after the third 50 µg dose of mRNA-1273 declined, but remained detectable in all participants

CAMBRIDGE, MA / ACCESSWIRE / January 26, 2021 / Moderna, Inc. (NASDAQ:MRNA), a biotechnology company pioneering messenger RNA (mRNA) therapeutics and vaccines, today announced that the first participant has been dosed in the Phase 2 study of the Company's Omicron-specific booster candidate (mRNA-1273.529). Additionally, Moderna announced the publication of neutralizing antibody data against the Omicron variant six months following a booster dose in The New England Journal of Medicine. While Omicron neutralization had declined 6.3-fold from peak titers at day 29 post-boost, levels remained detectable in all participants. Neutralizing titers against Omicron declined more rapidly than titers against the ancestral strain of the virus (D614G) which declined 2.3-fold over the same time period.

"We are reassured by the antibody persistence against Omicron at six months after the currently authorized 50 µg booster of mRNA-1273. Nonetheless, given the long-term threat demonstrated by Omicron's immune escape, we are advancing our Omicron-specific variant vaccine booster candidate and we are pleased to begin this part of our Phase 2 study," said Stéphane Bancel, Chief Executive Officer of Moderna. "We are also evaluating whether to include this Omicron-specific candidate in our multivalent booster program. We will continue to share data with public health authorities to help them make evidence-based decisions on the best booster strategies against SARS-CoV-2."...

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HHS Distributing $2 Billion More in Provider Relief Fund Payments to Health Care Providers Impacted by the COVID-19 Pandemic

U.S.Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), is making more than $2 billion in Provider Relief Fund (PRF) Phase 4 General Distribution

payment to more than 7,600 providers across the country this week. These payments come on the heels of the nearly $9 billion in funding that was already released by HHS in December 2021. With today’s announcement, a total of nearly $11 billion in PRF Phase 4 payments has now been distributed to more than 74,000 providers in all 50 states, Washington D.C., and five territories. This is in addition to HRSA’s distribution of American Rescue Plan (ARP) Rural payments totaling nearly $7.5 billion in funding to more than 43,000 providers in December 2021.
 
“Provider Relief Fund payments have served as a lifeline for our nation’s heroic health care providers throughout the pandemic, helping them to continue to recruit and retain staff and deliver care to their communities,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra. “This funding is just the latest example of the Biden-Harris administration’s dedication to ensuring that providers continue to have the resources they need to meet the evolving challenges presented by COVID-19 and keep providing critical services to the American people.”

For more information, please see the materials below:

NBC Story

Lily Griego
Regional Director
U.S. Department of Human Services

 

SCCE Panel Discussion

When: Wednesday, January 26, 2022 | 6:30pm - 8:00pm MT

The Clinical Education SIG invites you to a FREE Panel Discussion with Colorado SCCEs to examine frequent challenges within clinical education programs. Colorado SCCEs will lead a discussion covering various issues including

  • Challenging Students
  • Building a Clinical Education Program
  • Extremes of Patient Loads
  • Professional Issues
  • CI Development
  • CI/Student Conflict Resolution

CEUs: This session will meet the criteria for 1.5 hours (points) in the Category: Group Study. 

Where: Zoom link - CE SIG SCCE Panel Discussion Meeting ID: 863 2166 6592

 

APTA Colorado PT PAC Events

These courses meet Colorado standards for 8 hours of Professional Development Activity each. Click the links above to learn about each course and to register for either one or both days! 

Where: Regis University, Peter Claver Hall- Room 409

Registration:

  • Single Day Course Only:
    • APTA CO Members: $225
    • Non-Members: $275
    • Students $100
  • Both March 12th and March 13th Courses:
    • APTA CO Members: $400
    • Non-Members: $475
    • Students $150
 
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