COVID-19 Bivalent Vaccine Booster Protects Against New XBB.1.5 Variant

As we approach the end of the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic, Vanderbilt Health applauds the important advances made in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of this serious infection. As of January 2023, more than 663 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been given to people in the United States alone. These vaccines have been proven very safe with severe side effects being extremely rare. They have been incredibly effective at preventing serious complications of COVID-19 infection, such as hospitalization or death.

With the development of new variants of the COVID-19 virus, the FDA and the CDC approved a formulation of the COVID-19 vaccine (called the “bivalent vaccine booster”) that will more effectively protect against these new serious strains.

Currently, a new variant, named XBB.1.5, has started circulating in our region (about 20% of infections in Tennessee are now due to this variant). Because the original COVID-19 vaccine does not protect against XBB.1.5 (nicknamed "the Kraken"), the bivalent booster vaccine is necessary for protection against this new variant.

If you have not already received the bivalent vaccine booster, we urge you to do so as soon as you can to protect you and your community from serious COVID-19 infection. For locations offering the updated COVID-19 booster vaccine, including several retail pharmacies, visit

Check out the video below to listen as infectious disease expert Kimberly Okafor, MD, and Tom Talbot, MD, VUMC's Chief Hospital Epidemiologist, discuss the latest tool in the fight against COVID-19.