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

MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2023 Feb 3;72(5):119-124. doi: 10.15585/mmwr.mm7205e1.


The SARS-CoV-2 Omicron sublineage XBB was first detected in the United States in August 2022.* XBB together with a sublineage, XBB.1.5, accounted for >50% of sequenced lineages in the Northeast by December 31, 2022, and 52% of sequenced lineages nationwide as of January 21, 2023. COVID-19 vaccine effectiveness (VE) can vary by SARS-CoV-2 variant; reduced VE has been observed against some variants, although this is dependent on the health outcome of interest. The goal of the U.S. COVID-19 vaccination program is to prevent severe disease, including hospitalization and death (1); however, VE against symptomatic infection can provide useful insight into vaccine protection against emerging variants in advance of VE estimates against more severe disease. Data from the Increasing Community Access to Testing (ICATT) national pharmacy program for SARS-CoV-2 testing were analyzed to estimate VE of updated (bivalent) mRNA COVID-19 vaccines against symptomatic infection caused by BA.5-related and XBB/XBB.1.5-related sublineages among immunocompetent adults during December 1, 2022–January 13, 2023. Reduction or failure of spike gene (S-gene) amplification (SGTF) in real-time reverse transcription–polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) was used as a proxy indicator of infection with likely BA.5-related sublineages and S-gene target presence (SGTP) of infection with likely XBB/XBB.1.5-related sublineages (2). Among 29,175 nucleic acid amplification tests (NAATs) with SGTF or SGTP results available from adults who had previously received 2–4 monovalent COVID-19 vaccine doses, the relative VE of a bivalent booster dose given 2–3 months earlier compared with no bivalent booster in persons aged 18–49 years was 52% against symptomatic BA.5 infection and 48% against symptomatic XBB/XBB.1.5 infection. As new SARS-CoV-2 variants emerge, continued vaccine effectiveness monitoring is important. Bivalent vaccines appear to provide additional protection against symptomatic BA.5-related sublineage and XBB/XBB.1.5-related sublineage infections in persons who had previously received 2, 3, or 4 monovalent vaccine doses. All persons should stay up to date with recommended COVID-19 vaccines, including receiving a bivalent booster dose when they are eligible.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • COVID-19 Testing
  • COVID-19 Vaccines
  • COVID-19* / epidemiology
  • COVID-19* / prevention & control
  • Humans
  • RNA, Messenger
  • SARS-CoV-2 / genetics
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Vaccine Efficacy
  • Vaccines, Combined


  • COVID-19 Vaccines
  • Vaccines, Combined
  • RNA, Messenger

Supplementary concepts

  • SARS-CoV-2 variants