Yes, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) really “De said this” at a recent press conference. He claimed that those who had gotten the Covid-19 bivalent boosters are actually “more likely to get infected,” presumably with the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). Specifically, De Governor asserted, “[Florida Surgeon General] Joe Ladapo can talk a little bit more about it. Like almost every study now has said, with these new boosters, you’re more likely to get infected with the bivalent booster.” What? How is that the case? Well, it is easy to “DeBunk” such claims because “every study” did not say what DeSantis had said. In fact, studies have said exactly “DeOpposite.”
If you want a full recount of what DeSantis said, take a look at the video accompanying the following tweet from The Recount:
When you claim that “like almost every study” says something, you should be able to provide at least a few studies to support your claim, right? But DeSantis didn’t really do that.
If DeSantis were known as DeScientist, he would have reviewed all of the studies that have evaluated the effectiveness of the Covid-19 bivalent boosters to date during the press conference and explain why he still could have reached that conclusion. But DeSantis is neither a medical doctor nor any other type of scientist. For example, he didn’t mention the three different studies that that measured the effectiveness of the bivalent boosters and were published in two separate issues of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) in December.
The earliest of these three studies, published in the December 2, 2023, issue of the MMWR, found that adults 18 to 49 years of age were 30% to 56% less likely to have had symptomatic COvid-19 than those who had only received only two or more doses of the original monovalent Covid-19 vaccine, depending on when the latter groups had received their last dose of monovalent vaccine. Those in the 50 to 64 year age range were 31% to 48% less likely and those in the 65 years and older age range were 28% to 43%. .
Then there were the two studies published in the December 30, 2022, issue of the MMWR. The first of these two found that among patients who were 65 years and older, those who had received the bivalent vaccine were 84% less likely to be have been hospitalized for Covid-19 than those who had gone unvaccinated. They were 73% less likely to have been hospitalized than those who had only received two or more doses of the monovalent vaccine.
The second study in the December 30 MMWR issue found that among adults 18 years and older, those who had received a bivalent booster were 57% less likely to have sought care at either an emergency department or an urgent care clinic than those who had gone unvaccinated. They were 38% to 45% less likely to have sought such care than those who had gotten only the monovalent vaccine, with the range depending on when the latter group had received their last dose of the monovalent vaccine.
As you can see, none of these three studies suggested that those who had gotten the bivalent vaccine were more likely to have gotten infected by the SARS-CoV-2. Thus, these three studies clearly went against DeSantis’s “like almost every study claim.” These studies were far from perfect. A lot of different things may have affected the likelihood of people getting symptomatic Covid-19, visiting the emergency department or urgent care, and getting hospitalized. For example, could those who have gotten the bivalent vaccine also been more likely to practice other Covid-19 precautions such as wearing face masks. So there is certainly a need for more studies going forward.
Sure, the bivalent Covid-19 vaccines have been far from perfect and have justifiably had their critics. For example, on January 11, 2023, the New England Journal of Medicine published a Perspective piece by Paul A. Offit, M.D entitled “Bivalent Covid-19 Vaccines — A Cautionary Tale.” , Offit, who is Director of the Vaccine Education Center and a Professor of Pediatrics at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, pointed to studies that have suggested that the bivalent vaccine booster does not provide that much more protection than another boost with the monovalent vaccine would have. So the jury is still out on how effective the bivalent boosters have been. There have been concerns that the decision to roll out the bivalent mRNA vaccines versus other possibilities such as updated monovalent vaccines.
Nonetheless, neither Offit nor any other real vaccine experts have suggested that getting the bivalent booster somehow increases your chances of getting infected. Again before you say something like, “Like almost every study now has said,” you really should be able to show those specific studies. Otherwise you could be spreading misinformation, which could in turn be putting many people at risk. And that would be the “unDeniable” truth.