COVID-19: WHO marks JN.1 as “variant of interest”

The World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday (December 19, 2023) designated COVID-19 variant JN.1 as a “variant of interest”.

Cases of JN.1 infected patients are rising across several countries.

WHO now designates JN.1 as variant of interest. Photo Courtesy: Pixabay

WHO designated it as a separate variant of interest (VOI) from the parent lineage BA.2.86.

WHO posted on X: “It was previously classified as VOI as part of BA.2.86 sublineages.”

Is it risky?

Based on the available evidence, the additional global public health risk posed by JN.1 is currently evaluated as low, WHO said.

“Despite this, with the onset of winter in the Northern Hemisphere, JN.1 could increase the burden of respiratory infections in many countries,” WHO warned in its X post.

Can existing vaccines protect people?

WHO said current vaccines continue to protect against severe disease and death from JN.1 and other circulating variants of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.  

The JN.1 lineage — a closely related descendant of the highly mutated BA.2.86 variant that scientists first warned about over the summer — was estimated last week in the CDC’s projections to make up as much as 29 percent of infections in the US. That’s up from 8.8 percent at the end of November, reported CBS News