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Bivalent Booster Helps Prevent Symptoms from XBB.1.5: Study

Editor’s note: Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance in Medscape’s Coronavirus Resource Center.

New data for the bivalent COVID-19 booster shot shows that it cuts the risk in half for symptomatic infection from the now predominant Omicron subvariant, XBB.1.5. 

The results from the CDC are the first to show how well the bivalent booster works in the XBB.1.5 era, since the booster was developed before the strain first came about. 

“With this data, we see there is a benefit that might convince some people to sign up and get a bivalent booster,” Peter Hotez, MD, PhD, told NBC News. Hotez is a vaccine expert and dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.

About 15% of people in the U.S. have gotten the bivalent booster since it became available last fall. The term “bivalent” means the booster was developed to address both the original virus and the more recent version of the virus known as Omicron. 

The new analysis from the CDC looked at 29,175 cases of people reporting COVID-like symptoms from a national pharmacy testing data set spanning Dec. 1, 2022, to Jan. 13, 2023. Overall, 34% of people who tested negative reported having received the bivalent booster. Among people who tested positive for XBB.1.5, 21% said they had gotten the bivalent booster.

XBB.1.5 and its relative XBB currently account for 52% of diagnosed cases, CDC data shows.

A national advisory committee is meeting today to discuss future recommendations for COVID-19 boosters, including ways to simplify the process in hopes that more people will get the shots.


CDC: “Early Estimates of Bivalent mRNA Booster Dose Vaccine Effectiveness in Preventing Symptomatic SARS-CoV-2 Infection Attributable to Omicron BA.5- and XBB/XBB.1.5-Related Sublineages Among Immunocompetent Adults – Increasing Community Access to Testing Program, United States, December 2022-January 2023,” “COVID Data Tracker Summary of Variant Surveillance.”

NBC News: “Updated Covid boosters cut the infection risk from XBB.1.5 subvariant by nearly half, CDC finds.”

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