Does the bivalent COVID booster protect against the new omicron subvariant?

With a new omicron subvariant poised to become the dominant COVID strain in the country, you might be wondering about your protection.

Will the bivalent COVID booster work against this more contagious strain, known as XBB.1.5 and nicknamed Kraken? What about COVID treatments like monoclonal antibodies and drugs like Paxlovid?

Here’s what we know:

Does the bivalent COVID booster work against the new subvariant?

The bivalent COVID boosters from Pfizer and Moderna were designed to provide some protection against the original COVID strain, as well as the omicron. The blueprints were created long before XBB.1.5 began circulating around the country and in South Florida.

XBB.1.5 accounted for about 28% of COVID-19 cases in the United States for the week ending Jan. 7, up from 2% in early December, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The World Health Organization considers this new mutated strain to be more contagious, “incredibly transmissible”.

and slightly better at evading immunity, both from previous infections and from vaccination. However, this descendant of omicron still shares many similarities with previous omicron sub-variants.

As a result, bivalent boosters should still provide some protection against this subvariant, said Dr. Raj Palraj, assistant professor of medicine at Mayo Clinic’s College of Medicine in Rochester, Minnesota, who also works at Mayo Clinic Health System in Lacrosse. , Wisconsin.

“It may not prevent us from getting the infection, but hopefully you can reduce the severity of the infection” and avoid hospitalization, said Palraj, an infectious disease specialist.

READ MORE: The newer, more contagious omicron subvariant is found in Miami-Dade. Here’s what you need to know

Where can you get a bivalent booster in South Florida?

Like COVID-19 vaccines, bivalent boosters are available at South Florida retail pharmacies, including Publix, Walmart, Winn-Dixie, Fresco y Mas, Walgreens, CVS and Navarro Discount. There are also still COVID-19 vaccination sites in Miami-Dade, including Tropical Park.

To find a COVID-19 vaccination site near you in Miami-Dade, visit

“Miami-Dade County is still offering free COVID testing and vaccines to our residents at multiple locations, to keep our community safe and healthy. We are not letting our guard down while there are still variants of COVID affecting residents and visitors,” said Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava. “That’s why I continue to urge all Miamians to receive the latest updated vaccine, so that we can each stay healthy in the New Year and protect ourselves and our loved ones.”

The Broward Health Department also operates a COVID-19 vaccination site at the Broward Library Branch, 751 Southwest 121 Ave. at Davis. For hours of operation, visit

READ MORE: What’s the COVID risk in Miami and the rest of Florida? Here’s how to check

Do Paxlovid and Evusheld work against the new subvariant?

One of the COVID treatments is Paxlovid, which doctors can prescribe for people 12 and older who have mild to moderate COVID and are considered to be at high risk for serious illness, including hospitalization or death.

Paxlovid, an antiviral drug in pill form, is still effective against the new subvariant, according to Palraj.

Another treatment, Evusheld, may not be.

The U.S. Food & Drug Administration announced earlier this month that it does not expect Evusheld, which the agency has authorized for emergency use, to be given to immunocompromised people who are not ‘have not gotten an “adequate response” to COVID vaccinations, for work against XBB.1.5. It is too similar to other variants not neutralized by Evusheld, the FDA said.

“This means that Evusheld may not provide protection against the development of COVID-19 for individuals who received Evusheld and are subsequently exposed to XBB.1.5,” the FDA said. “However, we are awaiting additional data to verify that Evusheld is not active against XBB.1.5.”

READ MORE: What’s the COVID situation in Miami and why are Florida hospitals full of patients?

What about monoclonal antibody treatments?

The FDA at the end of November has withdrawn its emergency use authorization bebtelovimab, manufactured by Eli Lilly, as it was not expected to be effective against the new omicron subvariants BQ.1 and BQ.1.1., which are among the most important strains in the country . (XBB.1.5. may soon surpass them.)

Eli Lilly’s bebtelovimab was the last COVID-19 monoclonal antibody treatment available in the United States under emergency use authorization because new variant strains rendered other monoclonal antibody treatments ineffective.

Patients with COVID should speak with their doctor about their treatment options.

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