I’m really tired of discussing SARS-COV-2, I try to think more about other things, but I feel kind of forced to address this study, as it illustrates what me and others have been warning about for so long. They looked at people who had gotten three doses of science-juice and now received either a regular booster, or a new fun bivalent booster. Well, guess what they found? I’ll walk you through the study:
We evaluated humoral and cellular immune responses in 15 individuals who received the
original monovalent mRNA boosters and in 18 individuals who received the bivalent mRNA
boosters (Table S1). Participants had a median of 3 (range 2-4) prior COVID-19 vaccine doses,
and 33% had documented SARS-CoV-2 infection during the Omicron surge, although it is likely
that the majority of participants had hybrid immunity prior to boosting given the high prevalence
and limited severity of Omicron infection.
So here you see what they did, they looked at the response of people with 3 shots on average and some infections. Some then got the original shot, while others got the new shot.
Spike-specific CD8+ and CD4+ T cell responses increased only modestly following monovalent and bivalent mRNA boosting. Median BA.5 CD8+ T cell responses increased from 0.027% to 0.048% following monovalent mRNA boosting and from 0.024% to 0.046% following bivalent mRNA boosting (Fig. 1C, 1D). Median BA.5 CD4+ T cell responses increased from 0.060% to 0.130% following monovalent mRNA boosting and from 0.051% to 0.072% following bivalent mRNA boosting (Fig. 1E, 1F). Median BA.5 memory B cell responses were 0.079% following monovalent mRNA boosting and 0.091% following bivalent mRNA boosting (Fig. S4).
Congratulations, now you see the problem. There’s no increased T cell recruitment following the bivalent booster versus the original booster. You can’t meaningfully adjust the response to new variants anymore.
NAb titers were comparable following monovalent and bivalent mRNA boosters, with a modest and
nonsignificant trend favoring the bivalent booster by a factor of 1.3. These findings are consistent with data recently reported for a BA.1-containing bivalent mRNA booster4
In other words, these findings are validated by a previous study that looked at the BA.1 booster, rather than the BA.5 booster as in this study. No matter which booster you deploy, it doesn’t matter, as the immune system no longer manages to adjust its immune response to take the evolution of this virus into consideration.
Our findings suggest that immune imprinting by prior antigenic exposure may pose a greater challenge than currently appreciated for inducing robust immunity to SARS-CoV-2 variants.
So maybe you should not have shot people up with four shots of the exact same extinct Spike protein?
“But there was a trend favoring the booster by a factor of 1.3! Maybe it kind works?”
Nope sorry. See the T cell data. But more importantly, look at the neutralizing antibody response for the different variants. You actually see a greater relative increase for the original Wuhan version with the bivalent booster, than for BA.5!
You can say “well BA.5 is 30% higher post-Boost on the bivalent than on the monovalent”, BUT WA.1/2020 IS AT LEAST 90% HIGHER IN THE BIVALENT GROUP. The monovalent booster actually looks better at shifting the antibody repertoire towards BA.5 than the bivalent one.
There’s no way to spin these results as suggesting anything other than a very nasty strong original antigenic sin mechanism that’s now making it impossible to adjust people’s immune response to novel variants of this virus. The body can no longer learn new tricks, it just deploys the same old tricks the virus is evolving to overcome.
So get this straight: Not just is the booster completely mismatched for the variants that are now going to circulate. No my friends, it’s worse than that. The booster can’t even induce a proper immune response against the variant it contains. If you could somehow deploy an XBB/BQ.1.1 booster today with magic, these results suggest it wouldn’t matter, as people’s immune system no longer adjusts to deploy a better immune response. Rather, through vaccines and breakthrough infections we’re just recalling the relatively poorly neutralizing antibodies from Wuhan, with BA.5 having evolved to avoid the most strongly neutralizing ones. Then with BQ.1.1 and the others now emerging, you see variants that avoid (almost) all neutralizing antibodies.
Note, this is the second study coming out now saying this. Here’s another study released a bit earlier, that found these same results. These authors wrote:
Boosting with a new bivalent mRNA vaccine targeting both BA.4/BA.5 and an ancestral SARS76 CoV-2 strain did not elicit a discernibly superior virus-neutralizing antibody responses compared boosting with an original monovalent vaccine. These findings may be indicative of immunological imprinting, although follow-up studies are needed to determine if the antibody responses will deviate in time, including the impact of a second bivalent booster.
So in conclusion, we can say they fixated the population’s immune response on an extinct version of the virus and now they’re left with no clear way to make it “unstuck”. They’re considering giving people another bivalent booster, hoping that this will meaningfully shift the antibody response (don’t count on it).
The first dose of vaccine they were going to give people should have been designed with the consideration in the back of their heads that this virus isn’t going away and will evolve in response to these vaccines. But that didn’t happen. It’s all short-termism, trying to get through the next winter unscathed without considering what it means for the winter after that.