What We're Reading: Coronavirus Variant Spreading; Vaccine Trials in Adolescents; HHS Relaxes Addiction Medicine Regulation

In California, a novel variant of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) may be less susceptible to approved vaccines; COVID-19 vaccine trials are assessing efficacy in adolescents; HHS relaxes a regulation on prescribing addiction medication.

Coronavirus Variant in California May Be Less Susceptible to Vaccines

A novel variant of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) first identified in Denmark in March 2020, is quickly spreading across California, according to Deadline. After genetically sequencing the variant, L452R, researchers found it may be less susceptible to current vaccines, although they say that more investigation is warranted. So far, the variant has been present in several large outbreaks across various counties in California and has been linked with the massive outbreak at a Kaiser Permanente emergency department in San Jose, which sickened more than 90 staff and patients and resulted in 1 death.

COVID-19 Vaccine Trials Begin in Children, Results Expected Midyear

Reported by Bloomberg, as the COVID-19 vaccine rollout continues to target Americans aged 65 and older, those with underlying health conditions, and health care workers, adolescents are being assessed in trials conducted by Moderna, Pfizer, and AstraZeneca. Moderna gave its first doses to young populations (aged 12 to 18 years) in December, with initial data expected before the 2021 school year begins. Pfizer is said to have recruited 2000 volunteers aged 12 to 15 years, but a spokesperson declined to confirm whether enrollment was finished. AstraZeneca and Oxford University plan to recruit approximately 120 children in 2 age groups: 12 to 18 and 6 to 11 years.

HHS Relaxes Addiction Medicine Regulation

Even though a recent CDC report shows that overdose deaths have accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic, HHS has relaxed a regulation on prescribing addiction medication. Reported by The Philadelphia Inquirer, physicians will no longer be required to have an x-waiver from the Drug Enforcement Administration, which requires special training to obtain and prescribe buprenorphine, an opioid addiction treatment drug long restricted by the federal government. However, some restrictions still remain in prescribing the drug, as physicians without x-waivers can only treat patients in their own state. Nurse practitioners and physician assistants still needing an x-waiver to prescribe buprenorphine.