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A summary of important health news from the past week.

COVID-19: How worried should we be about the AY.4.2 Delta variant?

By: James Kingsland

Over the past 28 days, the U.K. has recorded one of the highest absolute number of new cases in any country, second only to the United States. The number of new daily cases per million people in the U.K. is rising sharply and is already higher than the figures in the U.S., Germany, France, and Italy. So the announcement last week from the U.K. Health Security Agency that a new subtype of Delta – called AY.4.2 – is spreading in England has raised concerns that this may ratchet up infection rates even further. The agency reported that the variant accounted for 6% of all genetic sequences of SARS-CoV-2 in the week beginning September 27, 2021, the latest week for which complete sequencing data was available. The strain is “on an increasing trajectory,” said the agency. AY.4.2 could be around 10% more transmissible than the original Delta variant. The new subvariant of the virus is distinguished by two mutations in its spike protein, called Y145H and A222V. However, neither mutation is in the receptor-binding domain, which is the part of the spike that binds to a particular receptor on human cells to infect them. This suggests that the mutations are unlikely to cause major increases in transmissibility or help the virus evade the immune system.

In 1 Week, 900,000+ Kids Got the COVID-19 Vaccine. How Close Are We to Herd Immunity?

By: Shawn Radcliffe

Children ages 5-11 are now able to receive the Covid-19 vaccine. This is an important step forward in the march towards herd immunity against Covid-19. Almost 1,000,000 children have already received the first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine. This is a strong step forward towards reaching a higher vaccination rate in the U.S. However, many parents are still skeptical about giving the vaccine to their children, demonstrated by the statistic that only 3/10 parents urgently want to get their child vaccinated. Children have recently been one of the populations most affected by Covid-19, so encouraging parents to get their children vaccinated against Covid-19 will help families and communities alike in preventing the spread of the disease. While herd immunity might still be out of reach, vaccine approval for children is a step closer.

Infrastructure Bill: Why It’s Vital to Public Health to Replace Old Water Pipes

By: Christopher Curley

According to the National Institute of Environmental Health SciencesTrusted Source, any amount of lead in the body is considered unsafe. Children under age 5 are especially susceptible to the adverse effects of lead in the body, such as intelligence, behavioral and developmental delays, as well as attention deficits. A $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill was recently approved. Congress approved the $1.2 trillion infrastructure deal, which includes nearly $36 billion for improving the nation’s water systems. It specifically contains $15 billion to replace aging water pipes across the country. This is important for combating lead exposure in the body since lead presence in water systems is a public health issue of grave concern. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has described this bill as “the single largest investment in water that the federal government has ever made.”

Texas Providers See Increased Interest in Birth Control Since Near-Total Abortion Ban

By: Amanda Michelle Gomez

In the wake of anti-abortion law, Senate Bill 8’s (SB 8), passing in Texas, demands for contraception among residents have been on the rise. A near-total abortion law, SB 8 criminalizes all abortion procedures after six weeks of gestation, during which most pregnancies are still indetectable without a test. In light of the severe threat that this new policy poses to reproductive health and autonomy, especially for survivors of sexual assault, incest, and/or the under and uninsured, organizations like Planned Parenthood have introduced resources and services like “empowerment kits,” designed to increase access to birth control as well as public knowledge of SB 8. Despite its unpopularity across the political spectrum both in and outside of the state, family planning and community health facilities across the state are reporting more opportunities for birth control education as a result of the panic produced by the law. Yet, healthcare and legal experts alike warn of the immense damage that the policy stands to do if not reversed soon.