Since May, public health authorities and media outlets have started pushing a new generation of mRNA Covid booster shots, theoretically reformulated specifically against the Omicron variant.
The new jabs supposedly fix the minor fact that the original mRNA jabs have proven all-but-useless against Omicron – which, at least for now, is the only variant of Sars-Cov-2 left outside labs. (Details, details.)
As has happened so many times in the last two years, the reporting around the Omicron boosters has been weirdly monochromatic. Practically every major news outlet parrots the talking points that Pfizer and Moderna offered when they reported results from their Omicron booster clinical trials: the boosters produce a stronger “immune response” and more “Omicron-specific antibodies” than the original shot.
Pfizer and Moderna aren’t lying.
What they’re saying about the Omicron boosters is technically true. It’s also meaningless – as the companies, the public health bureaucrats, and everyone else playing this shell game well know. (Except, maybe, the reporters. Never overestimate their understanding.)
The mRNA shots work by causing cells to produce the coronavirus spike protein, the part of the virus that attaches to receptors on the surface of our cells. Our immune systems then recognize the spike and make antibodies against it. Those antibodies will defeat the actual Sars-Cov-2 virus when people are exposed to it, preventing vaccinated people from being infected.
Unfortunately, the Omicron variant of Sars-Cov-2 has mutated so that its spike protein has a significantly different structure than the original variant of the virus. Thus the antibodies the first-generation mRNA vaccine causes us to make don’t block it very well, and the shot provides little if any protection against Omicron infection. (Why the virus has mutated in this way is one of the many questions that the vaccine fanatics would prefer no one ask, so put it aside for now.)
Pfizer and Moderna claim they have the answer to this problem – new jabs containing mRNA that will cause cells to make the Omicron spike protein, rather than the original protein. Then – theoretically – our immune systems will respond by making antibodies that will attach more strongly to the Omicron spike, providing new and stronger protection against Omicron.