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Updated Covid Vaccines Need to Target XBB Omicron Variants this Fall



Updated Covid Vaccines Need to Target XBB Omicron Variants this Fall

(CTN News) – FDA staff have suggested that updated Covid boosters for the upcoming fall and winter vaccination campaign should specifically target XBB omicron subvariants.

In a briefing document, the staff recommended using a monovalent vaccine focusing on the dominant strains, namely XBB.1.5, XBB.1.16, and XBB.2.3, which are currently prevalent nationwide.

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XBB Variants Recommended as Target for Covid Booster Shots

The final decision on strain selection will be made by an external panel of advisors to the FDA in a meeting scheduled for Thursday. Following the selection, vaccine manufacturers such as Pfizer, Moderna, and Novavax will be expected to update their shots accordingly.

The recommendation to target XBB variants aligns with a previous suggestion by an advisory group to the World Health Organization. XBB strains are known to possess significant immune-evasive characteristics, making them a focus of concern for public health officials.

Recent data provided by the FDA staff indicates that XBB strains accounted for more than 95% of Covid cases in the United States as of early June. While the proportion of XBB.1.5 cases is declining, the prevalence of XBB.1.16 and XBB.2.3 is increasing.

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The strain selection process is paramount for vaccine manufacturers, as it will determine their ability to compete during the fall season.

The US is expected to shift vaccine distribution to the private sector, enabling companies like Pfizer, Moderna, and Novavax to sell their updated Covid shots directly to healthcare providers.

However, the uptake of previous bivalent boosters, targeting the original strain of the virus along with omicron variants BA.4 and BA.5, has been slow.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only around 17% of the US population has received Pfizer’s and Moderna’s bivalent boosters since their approval in September.


In conclusion, the FDA staff’s recommendation to target XBB omicron subvariants in the upcoming fall and winter Covid boosters reflects the dominant strains circulating nationwide.

The strain selection will enable vaccine manufacturers to compete effectively in the private sector. With XBB strains accounting for the majority of Covid cases, focusing on these variants is essential to address the evolving nature of the virus and its immune-evasive characteristics.


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