Next COVID-19 shot might cut original strain, focus only on XBB.1

Health experts are hoping the next altered COVID-19 vaccine will return to being monovalent but focus solely on XBB.1, The Atlantic reported May 26. 

In fall 2022, the FDA greenlit bivalent COVID-19 vaccines to offer defense against the original SARS-CoV-2 strain and two omicron subvariants, BA.4 and BA.5, which accounted for a majority of cases that summer. For fall 2023, the agency will consider dropping the original strain — which has been in every approved COVID-19 shot thus far. 

In May, the World Health Organization said the next tweaked vaccines should focus only on XBB variants, such as XBB.1. The latest projections from the CDC show XBB.1's dominance is nearly 93 percent of COVID-19 cases in the U.S.

The FDA still has to conduct an independent advisory meeting before making its final decision — which is expected in June — but some experts think cutting the original strain from vaccines' ingredients list is necessary. 

The previous decision for a bivalent vaccine was playing it safe, experts told the news outlet, because keeping the original strain could continue offering protection if the prominent omicron variants suddenly fell in dominance. An XBB.1-focused shot could wake up immune systems, virologists said. 

"It just makes a lot of sense," Melanie Ott, MD, PhD, director of San Francisco-based Gladstone Institute of Virology, told The Atlantic


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