New COVID-19 Vaccine Boosters Perform Poorly Against Symptomatic Infection: CDC Study

New COVID-19 Vaccine Boosters Perform Poorly Against Symptomatic Infection: CDC Study
A healthcare worker prepares COVID-19 vaccines at a clinic in Florida on May 20, 2021. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Zachary Stieber

The new COVID-19 vaccine boosters provide poor protection against symptomatic infection, according to a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study published on Nov. 22.

Absolute vaccine effectiveness was 50 percent or lower among people who received one of the new bivalents after receipt of two or more original vaccine doses, researchers with the CDC estimated.

Among people 65 and older—the age group most at-risk of severe COVID-19—a bivalent provided just 32 percent protection at most, according to the study.

The study provides the first vaccine effectiveness estimates for the boosters, which are made by Pfizer and Moderna and were authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in late August despite no human trial data being available.

The CDC soon after recommended virtually all Americans 12 and older get one of the new shots, which contain components of the BA.4/BA.5 Omicron subvariants instead of only the original Wuhan strain.

The new study is based on test results from a nationwide CDC testing program called Increasing Community Access to Testing, which provides free tests to people in portions of the United States. It was published in the CDC’s self-published journal.

Researchers analyzed hundreds of thousands of tests and stratified the results by the number of doses received and age.

They found that a bivalent after two doses provided 41 percent protection for people aged 18 to 49, 50 percent protection for those 50 to 64, and just 32 percent for people aged 65 or older.

The protection was 43 percent, 25 percent, and 19 percent following receipt of a bivalent after three shots.

Fourth dose protection estimates were 28 percent for people aged 50 to 64, and 23 percent for people aged 65 or older.

The study didn’t analyze effectiveness against severe disease. Protection against severe disease from the old boosters was waning considerably against newer Omicron subvariants, according to an October study.

Comparison With Old Boosters

Researchers also compared the effectiveness of the new boosters with that of the old boosters, which stopped being administered in early September and had provided little shielding against infection.

They found that the new boosters provided better protection.

The relative effectiveness, or effectiveness compared with the old boosters, was 30 percent to 56 percent among people aged 18 to 49, 31 percent to 48 percent among people aged 50 to 64, and 28 percent to 43 percent among the elderly.

Effectiveness was worse when people received a bivalent booster soon after a monovalent vaccine. It was highest when people received a bivalent eight or more months after a monovalent.

Researchers Recommend Boosters

The CDC scientists said the results support the U.S. government’s position that virtually all Americans get a new booster.

“Bivalent mRNA booster doses provide additional protection against symptomatic SARS-CoV-2 in immunocompetent persons who previously received monovalent vaccine only, with relative benefits increasing with time since receipt of the most recent monovalent vaccine dose,” they said.

“These findings support the current COVID-19 vaccination policy recommending a bivalent booster dose for adults who have completed at least a primary mRNA vaccination series, irrespective of the number of monovalent doses previously received.”

Limitations of the study included self-reporting of vaccination status and previous infection history. The researchers said that they couldn’t stratify vaccine estimates by the presence of previous infection, which is known as natural immunity and confers protection greater than that of vaccines.

Dr. Robert Malone in Washington on June 29, 2021. (Zhen Wang/The Epoch Times)
Dr. Robert Malone in Washington on June 29, 2021. (Zhen Wang/The Epoch Times)
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, in Washington on Nov. 22, 2022. (Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images)
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, in Washington on Nov. 22, 2022. (Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images)

Malone Disagrees

Dr. Robert Malone, who helped develop the messenger RNA technology that Pfizer and Moderna utilize with their vaccines, said that the conclusion in support of current booster recommendations wasn’t supported by the study results.

“If their standard is that improved protection against infection is their only criteria, and they have not done a rigorous analysis of safety and on the proven risk of immune imprinting, then that’s not an adequate basis for making a recommendation for vaccination,” Malone told The Epoch Times.

“Recommendation for vaccination with these products should include their effectiveness in protection against infection, severe disease, death, and the safety associated with the product. And in particular, an emphasis on immune imprinting and longer-term immunologic effects.”

Researchers didn’t mention safety in the new study.

Immune imprinting refers to an immune system being locked into a response to an old virus strain. Malone has been warning about imprinting for more than a year, and scientists behind recent studies on the new boosters said it was a concern.
A number of studies have found vaccine effectiveness turns negative over time.

Fauci Promotes Boosters

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the longtime head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, stated at a press conference in Washington on Nov. 22 that people should get boosters, even as he acknowledged the protection wanes.

Fauci, who also serves as President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, pointed to the new CDC study.

“Everybody’s asking the question: Where’s the clinical efficacy data? Now it’s come out with the CDC MMWR this morning,” he said.

Clinical efficacy refers to results from a clinical trial. The CDC paper wasn’t from a clinical trial. There are still no clinical efficacy results for either of the new boosters.