FDA panel chooses JN.1 subvariant for fall COVID vaccines

The Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) expert advisory panel voted unanimously on Wednesday to select the JN.1 COVID-19 subvariant to be targeted in the next round of COVID-19 vaccines this fall.

The FDA's Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) was asked whether it would recommend a monovalent vaccine targeting the JN.1 omicron subvariant for the 2024-2024 COVID vaccines. All 16 voting members voted in favor of selecting this line for the fall.

The JN.1 subvariant is no longer the dominant COVID-19 strain in the US, with the most recent surveillance data indicating it makes up less than 10 percent of cases. Current projections place the KP.2 subvariant, from the FLiRT subvariant family, as the predominant strain in the US.

However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's genomic surveillance data has not been updated in more than a week.

The selection of strains for annual vaccines is not necessarily based on which lineage will be most dominant by the time the updates are deployed. The goal is to select a strain that is closely enough related to the strain that is currently dominant in the country so that it provides strong protection.

Although the XBB sub-variant line was chosen for the vaccines last year, the EG.5 and JN.1 sub-variants gained a dominant position after the vaccines became available.

“Our current data suggest that a new variant vaccine of JN.1 or KP.2 will provide protection against JN.1, KP.2, KP.3 and other JN.1 subvariants now in circulation,” said a representative of Moderna in a presentation to VRBPAC.

“From my perspective, I think it's very difficult, just very difficult to predict what's going to happen and where things are going to go,” VRBPAC member Sarah Meyer said after the vote.
'So I can kind of see it [a] reasoning with the idea that JN.1 is further down the tree. And so, if we had to guess, we had to choose, which seems like an appropriate option.”

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