Allysia Finley, a Wall Street Journal editorial board member, has strongly criticized vaccine manufacturers for their “dishonest” campaign to promote bivalent Covid boosters. She also condemned multiple federal agencies for making the unprecedented decision of requiring vaccine makers to create these vaccines without proof of their safety and efficacy.
A radio announcement paid for by the Health and Human Services Department stated that if you have already been afflicted with Covid-19, you may be in danger of contracting it again. Furthermore, this potential new infection could produce even more serious symptoms than before. The ad encouraged listeners to get their updated bivalent vaccines as a precautionary measure against further suffering – however, such endorsement from the public health sector shouldn't come as a shocker. Despite being deceptive advertising tactics at play here, many people still find themselves turning towards these kinds of assurances during times like these.
The narrative of this campaign was straightforward: the mRNA Covid shots could easily be ‘tailored' to target new variants – for example, these jabs were said to provide immunity against BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron variants, as well as the original Wuhan strain.
To label this an unrealistic hope would be more than kind.
Finley's article presents three perplexing scientific issues.
- The virus is evolving at a rate that surpasses the speed of vaccine updates, making it increasingly difficult to control.
- Vaccines have equipped our immune systems to react favorably to the original Wuhan strain, however these responses result in a weaker output of antibodies that can fight variants which are particularly targeted by modernized vaccines.
- The effectiveness of antibody protection rapidly diminishes after a short period.
Finley has brought receipts too…
This month, two studies published in the New England Journal of Medicine revealed that bivalent boosters can strengthen neutralizing antibodies against BA.4 and BA.5 variants; however, it is not significantly more than original boosters. Out of one study, antibody levels increased to 11 times higher than Wuhan variant as compared to BA.5 after receiving bivalent booster shots!
The authors argue that “immune imprinting” may be a more substantial issue than previously thought when it comes to creating effective immunity against SARS-CoV-2 variants. This concept is not exclusive to the Covid virus or mRNA vaccines– boosters can further boost its effects, and our first interactions as kids with the flu greatly impact how we react to different strains of the virus later in life.
This Was the Outcome
If you received the original COVID-19 vaccine (or were obligated to get it), our memory B-cells became adept at making antibodies against the Wuhan strain. An article in The New England Journal of Medicine notes that those who already got the initial shot have been “primed” for the Wuhan incarnation, and thus created a weaker response to other variants of it.
Research results contradict the assertions made by Pfizer and Moderna regarding their bivalent boosters, which they claimed yielded a response to the new strains (BA.4 and BA.5) that is 4-6x as powerful as original boosters; however, The Wall Street Journal points out this was “misleading.”
To begin, neither Pfizer nor Moderna conducted a randomized trial.
During the winter months prior to the BA.5 surge, they assessed how effective the original boosters were four-and-a-half to five months after trial participants had received their third shots. On the other hand, these bivalents were tested post BA.5 increase and nine-and-a half to eleven months following receiving one's third vaccination dose – as reported by The Wall Street Journal.
The vaccine makers created their studies to get the outcomes they desired, and public-health authorities showed no resistance. Despite this, why would they? It's in their best interests to advocate for bivalents vaccines. Therefore, here is our conclusion: “The vaccine makers designed their studies to get the results that served them best – and public-health authorities didn't bat an eyelid.”
In June, the FDA mandated vaccine producers to modify their boosters against BA.4 and BA.5 – even before they had access to clinical data – in an effort to expedite the distribution of these vaccines across the nation. Additionally, Biden's CDC made a recommendation for all adults to receive bivalents without any existing evidence that this was necessary or effective at preventing disease spread.
Finley further notes that vaccine makers could have performed small, randomized trials last summer and early fall on the bivalents – with results available by the end of September. But the Biden administration didn't want to wait (and now we know why).
In November, the CDC published a report that estimated 22-43% effectiveness of bivalents during the peak of the BA.5 wave; however, as antibodies and variants decreased in late fall, their capability to protect against infection likely became nonexistent.
A CDC investigation conducted in December uncovered a remarkable discovery – individuals over 65 who received bivalents were 84% less likely to be hospitalized than those who had not received the vaccine, and 73% less likely than those inoculated with two or more doses of the original. Still, both reports failed to consider several influential confounding factors such as whether participants who procured bivalents may have been more willing to observe other Covid safety protocols and procure treatments like Paxlovid compared to their unvaccinated counterparts.
We are truly in awe of the Journal's courage and bravery to publish this work – our respect for them is immense.