“I couldn’t design a vaccine if I wanted to, to be more likely to drive immune imprinting,” Malone, who helped invent the messenger RNA technology the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are built on, told The Epoch Times.
Immune imprinting refers to a phenomenon whereby initial exposure to a virus strain may prevent the body from producing enough neutralizing antibodies against a new viral strain.
The COVID-19 vaccines currently in circulation are based on the Wuhan strain of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus. Also known as SARS-CoV-2, the virus causes COVID-19.
A number of strains have emerged and become dominant since the Wuhan strain was prevalent, including the currently dominant Omicron variant.
Researchers with Imperial College London and the United Kingdom Health Security Agency found that people who received three doses of a COVID-19 vaccine and were infected with the Wuhan strain had a lower level of protection against later strains when compared to people who had not been infected. Other groups, including researchers with the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, have found the vaccines much less effective against Omicron subvariants than the Wuhan strain.
A number of studies have found negative effectiveness among vaccinated groups. That means those who get vaccinated are more likely to get infected.
In some areas, the vaccinated account for a majority of those infected or in hospitals or dying with COVID-19. In Louisiana, for example, 70 percent of the deaths recorded between June 23 and June 29 were among the vaccinated.
Second Booster Push
The vaccines were originally promoted as two-shot primary regimens (Pfizer and Moderna) or a one-shot immunization (Johnson & Johnson). They were said to have efficacy as high as 100 percent against symptomatic infection.
Due to waning effectiveness against the emerging variants, U.S. officials authorized booster doses. In March, because the effects of the boosters against infection didn’t last long, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) cleared and recommended second boosters for all adults over the age of 50.
Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and President Joe Biden’s top medical adviser, is now saying Americans 5 to 50 should be allowed to get a second booster dose.
Fauci told the Washington Post that the United States “need[s] to allow people who are under 50 to get their second booster shot, since it may have been months since many of them got their first booster.”
“If I got my third shot [in 2021], it is very likely the immunity is waning,” he added.
Fauci has no authority over authorizing or recommending boosters, but has signaled major changes in U.S. vaccine policy in the past.
White House, FDA Respond
Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House’s COVID-19 response coordinator, told reporters on July 12 that “we have conversations all the time about what are possible things we could be doing to better protect the American people” but that the decision on second boosters will be made by the FDA and the CDC.
Fauci uttered a similar statement during the briefing.
“The FDA is evaluating the current situation, including the emerging epidemiology indicating increased hospitalization, and will be open to all potential options to address this, if necessary,” an FDA spokesperson told The Epoch Times in an email.
Vaccine makers and the FDA are working together to develop variant-specific shots for the fall, which they say will offer better protection. But the updated shots aren’t yet on the market.
Many U.S. adults have received a primary series of a vaccine, including 91 percent of those 65 and older and 77 percent of those 18 and older. But booster doses have been a harder sell. Only 70 percent of elderly persons who got a primary series have received a first booster, along with just 51 percent of those 18 and older, according to CDC data. A second booster has only been administered to 28 percent of the population 50 and older.
Few of the COVID-19 vaccine mandates included a booster, and most of the mandates have been rescinded due to factors like plunging COVID-19 metrics and the waning effectiveness of the vaccines.
The new BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron subvariants—which have been edging out other strains in the United States and are thought to be more transmissible, but do not seem to cause more severe illness—are “more likely to lead to vaccine breakthrough infections,” researchers with Columbia University found.
The COVID-19 metrics in the United States have been creeping up in recent weeks, with the weekly average of cases jumping by 75 percent since late March and hospitalizations with COVID-19 doubling since April.
Officials blame the BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron subvariants, which have been edging out other strains in the United States and are thought to be more transmissible, but do not seem to cause more severe illness.
People should get a booster as soon as they’re eligible, which is typically about five months after their last shot, Jha and CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said. “Don’t delay,” Jha said.
But Malone is among the scientists who are challenging the idea that the old vaccines are the solution.
“You got a major problem with the new Omicron, that’s the BA.5. The people that are getting infected chronically and hospitalized and dying are predominantly the vaccinated. It’s happening all over the world,” Malone said. “Now they’ve got a problem because they have driven this because of immune imprinting. This is increasingly becoming a vaccine-driven disease.”
Fauci, a major vaccine proponent, “has basically created a situation through the insistence on the hyper vaccination where he’s actually driving the disease in the United States,” he added.
Government officials disagree. Walensky said CDC data show that people who either have not received a vaccine or have not been boosted have less protection than those who have been boosted, including against infection, even as studies show the boost against infection quickly drops after the first and second booster.
Fauci said that people who were previously infected, or have natural immunity from surviving COVID-19, “don’t have a lot of protection” against the new subvariants.
Neither mentioned how natural immunity, according to a new study, remains stronger than the protection from vaccines even with boosters, particularly against severe disease.
Meiling Lee contributed to this report.