All 21 members of an advisory panel for the Food and Drug Administration recommended Thursday that the COVID-19 vaccines being made for this coming fall should be updated to target a specific coronavirus variant, XBB, as reported by multiple online news sources.

Time said the vote specifically was to “move away from the current bivalent vaccine,” which targets the original virus and variants BA.4 and BA.5, and design a vaccine that protects against XBB variants, which are currently dominating in the U.S.

The committee said the XBB.1.5 omicron subvariant should be the first to be targeted by a new vaccine, per Reuters.

“FDA official Dr. Peter Marks indicated the agency was likely to settle on XBB.1.5, which manufacturers suggested could be ready for inoculations soonest,” Reuters said.

NBC News said an advisory committee meeting for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will meet next week and decide who should get the shots and when.

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XBB.1.5 omicron subvariant

A Yale Medicine article said this variant of COVID-19 is “another descendent of the omicron variant. Like previous versions of the virus, it has been described as the most transmissible strain so far, more efficient and contagious than its predecessors.”

“XBB.1.5 accounts for about 40% of all new COVID cases as of Saturday, according to the CDC,” said NBC News.

The updated vaccine would no longer protect against the original COVID-19 virus strain, CNN said.

“‘Your immune response likes to react to what it’s seen before,’ said Dr. David Ho, a professor of microbiology and immunology and director of the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center at Columbia University whose research is cited in the FDA’s briefing documents,” per CNN.

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NBC News said vaccine developers have already started to move forward with reformulated doses:

  • Pfizer said it may have vaccines available by the end of July.
  • Moderna said, if the FDA approves, it could begin shipping reformulated vaccines by the end of summer.
  • Novavax said its updated vaccines could be available in the fall.
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Reuters reported that meeting chair Dr. Arnold Monto said, “The fact that most of the manufacturers are ready to work on XBB.1.5 is an added reason to select this strain or this variant given the immunologic data.”

Concerning the future of COVID-19 vaccines, Kanta Subbarao, chair of the World Health Organization’s strain selection committee, “told the FDA’s advisory committee that her group plans on meeting twice a year to ensure that the COVID-19 vaccine doesn’t fall too far behind the ever-evolving virus,” according to Time.

Ho told CNN getting an updated shot to protect against newer strains of the virus may make sense for people to consider.

“The idea is that if we are able to broaden our antibody responses against the latest variants, that should protect even better against severe disease and death,” Ho said, “and perhaps would lower the infection rate, as well,” per CNN.

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