Coffee with the Senators
State Sen. Steve Halloran of Hastings and two legislative colleagues will speak to what is being billed as the “EPIC Option” for tax reform during a Coffee with the Senators event Jan. 28.
Halloran will be joined by Sens. Steve Erdman of Bayard and Mike McDonnell of Omaha for the coffee from 9-10:30 a.m. at the Hastings Eagles Club, 107 N. Denver Ave. The event is sponsored by the Hastings Area Chamber of Commerce and the Adams/Webster County Farm Bureau.
The “EPIC Option” refers to eliminating property, income (including inheritance) and corporate (business) taxes in Nebraska and replacing the state sales tax with a single-rate consumption tax on all purchases of new goods and services except groceries.
Significant changes have been made for this year in the proposed legislation to effect such a change in Nebraska’s tax structure. More information is available at www.epicoption.org.
NU regent acquitted
of witness tampering
OMAHA — A jury has acquitted University of Nebraska Regent Jack Stark of witness tampering in a sexual assault case.
The Omaha World-Herald reported that the jury of five women and seven men returned a not guilty verdict Friday afternoon after 30 minutes of deliberation.
Prosecutors charged Stark with felony witness tampering in August 2021. They alleged that Stark told former Husker fullback Willie Miller not to testify on behalf of Miller’s friend, Doug Anders, a former Omaha gym owner accused of sexually assaulting a teen girl who worked out at Anders’ facility.
Anders was convicted in February 2021 of first-degree sexual assault. Stark, a 76-year-old sports psychologist, was prepared to testify as a witness for prosecutors on behalf of the victim but he was never called to the stand.
Former Nebraska coach Tom Osborne testified on Stark’s behalf before the jury got the case on Friday, the World-Herald reported. He described how Stark would help Husker players all the time and created a players-only group in the 1990s that addressed team chemistry and disciplinary issues.
Once-a-year COVID shots
WASHINGTON — U.S. health officials want to make COVID-19 vaccinations more like the annual flu shot.
The Food and Drug Administration on Monday proposed a simplified approach for future vaccination efforts, allowing most adults and children to get a once-a-year shot to protect against the mutating virus.
This means Americans would no longer have to keep track of how many shots they’ve received or how many months it’s been since their last booster.
The proposal comes as boosters have become a hard sell. While more than 80% of the U.S. population has had at least one vaccine dose, only 16% of those eligible have received the latest boosters authorized in August.
The FDA will ask its panel of outside vaccine experts to weigh in at a meeting Thursday. The agency is expected to take their advice into consideration while deciding future vaccine requirements for manufacturers.
In documents posted online, FDA scientists say many Americans now have “sufficient preexisting immunity” against the coronavirus because of vaccination, infection or a combination of the two. That baseline of protection should be enough to move to an annual booster against the latest strains in circulation and make COVID-19 vaccinations more like the yearly flu shot, according to the agency.
For adults with weakened immune systems and very small children, a two-dose combination may be needed for protection. FDA scientists and vaccine companies would study vaccination, infection rates and other data to decide who should receive a single shot versus a two-dose series.
FDA will also ask its panel to vote on whether all vaccines should target the same strains. That step would be needed to make the shots interchangeable, doing away with the current complicated system of primary vaccinations and boosters.
The initial shots from Pfizer and Moderna — called the primary series — target the strain of the virus that first emerged in 2020 and quickly swept across the world. The updated boosters launched last fall were also tweaked to target omicron relatives that had been dominant.
Under FDA’s proposal, the agency, independent experts and manufacturers would decide annually on which strains to target by the early summer, allowing several months to produce and launch updated shots before the fall. That’s roughly the same approach long used to select the strains for the annual flu shot.
Ultimately, FDA officials say moving to an annual schedule would make it easier to promote future vaccination campaigns, which could ultimately boost vaccination rates nationwide.
The original two-dose COVID shots have offered strong protection against severe disease and death no matter the variant, but protection against mild infection wanes. Experts continue to debate whether the latest round of boosters significantly enhanced protection, particularly for younger, healthy Americans.
The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Science and Educational Media Group. The AP is solely responsible for all content.