Are COVID-19 vaccines still one giant experiment?! Take a look at the viral claims, and find out what the facts really are!
Claim : COVID-19 Vaccines Are Still One Giant Experiment!
Anti-vaccination activists are excitedly sharing screenshots of an article by Katherine J. Wu from The Atlantic magazine, claiming that it proves that COVID-19 vaccines are still “one giant experiment”!
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Truth : COVID-19 Vaccines Are Not Still One Giant Experiment!
This is yet another example of FAKE NEWS created and propagated by anti-vaccination activists, and here are the reasons why…
Fact #1 : Claims Are Based On Article From The Atlantic
First, let me provide some context on what’s going on.
These claims are based on a recent article (behind a paywall) by Katherine J. Wu, writing for The Atlantic magazine, in which she wrote about efforts to decide on this year’s COVID-19 vaccination strategy.
Unfortunately, the article is long and behind a paywall, so you cannot read it for yourself, unless you subscribe to The Atlantic magazine. But in this fact check article, I will share with you the pertinent parts of the article to show you why the claims are false.
Fact #2 : The Atlantic Changed Its Title Twice!
Anti-vaccination activists are sharing screenshots of the article, but not the actual link to the article itself because its title was changed not once, but twice!
According to archive.today, the original title on 26 May 2023 was uncontroversial – “What Should Go Into This Year’s COVID Vaccine?”
But that innocuous title probably didn’t gain much traction, so about 1.5 hours later, the title was changed to the controversial “COVID Shots Are Still One Giant Experiment“. That was when the article finally went viral.
When the controversy over its title blew up on social media, The Atlantic changed the article’s title six hours later to “Fall’s COVID Shots May Be Different in One Key Way“.
Fact #3 : Article Did Not Mention Experiment Even Once!
I should point out that while the article was written by Katherine J. Wu, the title was likely decided by the editor(s) at The Atlantic. That’s probably why the title was changed to the controversial “COVID Shots Are Still One Giant Experiment” even though the word “experiment” or “experimental” was never mentioned, not even once in her entire article.
One of the consideration editors have when creating a title is whether it is attractive and can gain traction… and whether it can improve the SEO of the article.
It is likely the editor(s) at The Atlantic decided to “amp up” the title to improve its SEO, and/or make it more clickbaity / share-worthy, so it would go viral. If that was the reason for the first title change, then the editor(s) sure did a great job!
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Fact #4 : Article Never Said COVID-19 Vaccines Are Experimental
If you read the entirety of Katherine J. Wu’s article, you will realise that it never once said or even suggested that COVID-19 vaccines are still experimental.
Her article was about work being done to create the next COVID-19 vaccine formula that the US FDA is scheduled to decide next month. Would it continue with the current bivalent vaccine strategy targeting the ancestral and Omicron variants, or should it switch to targeting XBB.1 variant alone?
To be clear – COVID-19 vaccines underwent and passed large trials before they received their Emergency Use Authorisations, and many subsequently received full approval after months of monitoring. Those vaccine cease to be experimental once they receive either an EUA or a full approval.
Fact #5 : Scientists Need To Predict Virus Evolution
The SARS-CoV-2 virus evolves rapidly, with every infection presenting an opportunity for it to evolve further into new variants.
While mRNA technology has helped to speed up vaccine development, it still takes time to develop improved vaccines to tackle these new variants. So scientists need to predict the virus’ evolution, to decide on the next vaccine.
Will SARS-CoV-2 evolution continue mainly through the XBB.1 variant, or will a new Alpha or Delta variant gain supremacy? That is the question scientists need to answer in order to develop the next COVID-19 vaccine.
If the next vaccine is based on the XBB.1 variant, it will offer good protection even against subsequent sub variant of XBB.1. But if a new Delta sub-variant suddenly becomes far more common, then the XBB.1 optimised vaccine may not offer quite as much protection.
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Fact #6 : Article Says Vaccines Are Essential
What anti-vaccination activists notably do not point out is that the article specifically pointed out that “it’s long been clear that vaccines are essential for preventing severe disease and death“, and that regular boosting is probably necessary to maintain their effectiveness.
The article does not, ever, claim that COVID-19 vaccines are “still one giant experiment”. Instead, it says that these vaccines are essential, and we will need some regular boosting to maintain its effectiveness against new variants.
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