COVID-19 strain different from UK variant is found in California

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A new strain of the coronavirus – different from the highly contagious UK variant – has appeared in California, where the total number of cases approaches 3 million, according to a report.

The state’s Department of Public Health said it’s unclear whether the variant, which has popped up in a dozen counties, is highly contagious or is just being identified more frequently as lab work becomes increasingly sophisticated, the LA Times reported.

Researchers have linked the strain to several large outbreaks in Santa Clara County, according to the newspaper.

“This virus continues to mutate and adapt, and we cannot let down our guard,” Dr. Sara Cody, Santa Clara County health officer and director of the Public Health Department, said in a statement.

The new variant also has been reported in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Francisco, San Bernardino, San Diego, Humboldt, Lake, Mono, Monterey and San Luis Obispo counties, according to the report.

Dr. Charles Chiu, a virologist at UC San Francisco, said the variant carries three mutations in the spike protein, which the deadly bug uses to attach itself to cells.

The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines train the immune system to target the spike protein — which means that, theoretically, the mutations could alter the spike protein in a way that decreases the jabs’ effectiveness, according to the LA Times.

Chiu said scientists are seeking to determine whether the variant is “more infectious or affects vaccine performance.”

Meanwhile, Dr. Erica S. Pan, state epidemiologist for the California Department of Public Health, sent an alert late Sunday to state medical providers recommending that they temporarily stop administering the Moderna doses from a single lot after “fewer than 10″ people developed allergic reactions to the shot at a community vaccination clinic, the outlet reported.

More than 330,000 doses from the lot were sent to 287 providers across the state from Jan. 5 to Jan. 12, officials said.

“A higher-than-usual number of possible allergic reactions were reported with a specific lot of Moderna vaccine administered at one community vaccination clinic. Fewer than 10 individuals required medical attention over the span of 24 hours,” Pan said in a statement, Fox 11 reported.

“Out of an extreme abundance of caution and also recognizing the extremely limited supply of vaccine, we are recommending that providers use other available vaccine inventory and pause the administration of vaccines from Moderna Lot 041L20A until the investigation by the CDC, FDA, Moderna and the state is complete,” she added.

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