A tweet falsely claims that COVID-19 vaccines and boosters are ineffective against Omicron variants

The current vaccines are an effective tool in avoiding hospitalization and death from COVID-19. The bivalent vaccine boosters are an additional tool to combat the chances of COVID-19 hospitalization and/or death.

With the rates of COVID Omicron variants BQ1and BQ1.1 outpacing BA5, the question of the effectiveness of the vaccines and new bivalent booster is critical as the fight against COVID hospitalizations and deaths continues. The myth that the current vaccines are ineffective against COVID continues to circulate on social media. Getting to the truth is essential to safeguard Black and brown communities, those who are underserved, underaccess, or misinformed. 

According to the CDC in various reports and data, and NYC DOH data, as of October 24, 2022, 1.8 New Yorkers/100,000 hospitalized with COVID were vaccinated as opposed to 12/100,000 New Yorkers who were unvaccinated.

This chart from the NY State Dept of Health shows that unvaccinated New Yorkers are far more likely to be hospitalized from COVID-19. Source: coronavirus.health.ny.gov/covid-19-breakthrough-data

According to the paper The Vaccine Efficacy Against the SARS-CoV-2 Omicron: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis, “Although the effectiveness of the currently available vaccines against new variants may decrease, vaccination still provides protection against severe COVID-19 caused by different variants and may also decrease the emergence of new variants.” 

The authors go on to state that “[t]he full dose of SARS-CoV-2 vaccination effectively reduces infection from the SARS-CoV-2 Omicron variant; however, the effectiveness wanes over time. The booster vaccine provides additional protection against the Omicron variant.” The authors conclude by stating “our data clearly indicated the effectiveness of vaccination and the promoter role of booster vaccination against the Omicron variant. The results also confirmed the effectiveness of the mRNA vaccines in preventing the Omicron variant infections.”

The combination of the primary vaccines series with the new Omicron specific booster is a powerful tool in the fight against COVID. According to a previous AmNews article on the Omicron booster, “[t]he boosters that were recently approved are considered to be bivalent vaccines, meaning they will protect people both from the original COVID-19 strain and the current Ba.4 and Ba.5 Omicron subvariants.” The issue, however, is getting more people to actually avail themselves of the bivalent booster. 

According to Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and President Biden’s Chief Medical Advisor in an interview with the AmNews, “we have less than 10% of the country getting [the bivalent booster] and that’s a very poor percentage. We’ve got to do better than that.” 

Boosters make a difference

Dr. Sara Al-Dahir, clinical professor in the division of clinical and administrative  sciences at Xavier University spoke to the AmNews and sees an analogy to a virus that is still with us. “Just like HIV. HIV redefined what…people defined as safe and unsafe behaviors and it really opened conversations for a lot of people and it was the beginning of a new beginning.” Encouraging people to get vaccinated, boosted, and to continue other safety measures may be the “beginning of a new beginning” in the fight to combat COVID-19. 

Information about the primary vaccine series can be found at the CDC’s website page entitled “Overview of COVID-19 Vaccines”: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/different-vaccines/overview-COVID-19-vaccines.html.

For more information regarding vaccines and boosters in New York City, please go to www1.nyc.gov/site/doh/covid/covid-19-vaccines.page. These and other resources can also be accessed on the AmNews COVID-19 page: https://amsterdamnews.com/covid/

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