Two recent studies have found that the so-called “omicron specific” COVID boosters weren’t much better than the original jabs at protecting against the newer and more contagious variant.
Scientists at Columbia and Harvard, in two independent studies, found the new boosters and the old shots basically performed the same against Omicron BA.5, raising doubts about whether the vaccines will live up to high expectations set by the Biden administration.
The antibody responses were slightly higher with the omicron boosters, though the studies concluded the difference “wasn’t significant.”
Top U.S. health officials have said the new boosters should perform better because they are now matched to the dominant circulating strain, omicron BA.5, for the first time since the pandemic began as well as the original strain of Covid that emerged in China. These are called bivalent shots.
The old shots, called monovalent, were designed against the first strain of Covid. Their effectiveness has declined over time as the virus has mutated away from the original strain.
“It is reasonable to expect, based on what we know about immunology and the science of this virus, that these new vaccines will provide better protection against infection, better protection against transmission, and ongoing and better protection against serious illness,” Dr. Ashish Jha, head of the White House Covid task force, told reporters in September.
Jha, like Dr. Fauci, has been a staple on CNN pushing Joe Biden’s vaccine agenda.
However, such expectations have not been proven according to the Columbia and Harvard studies.
The two independent studies clearly show that the boosters do work, but as to whether they work any better at preventing disease, particularly infection and mild illness, than the original shots remains questionable.
“The take-home lesson is the people who were in high-risk groups and benefit from booster doses as we enter this late fall and early winter — those who are immunocompromised, who have high-risk medical conditions, who are elderly — they should get this booster dose,” said Dr. Paul Offit, a member of the FDA’s independent vaccine advisory committee.
Offit said public health officials should be cautious about overselling the shots as a major upgrade.
“We have to be careful when we get in front of the American public and try and sell this vaccine as something that’s significantly better when all the evidence, we have so far doesn’t support that,” said Offit.