Governor Ron DeSantis is making COVID headlines again. At a press conference on Jan. 17, 2023, DeSantis claimed that those who had gotten the COVID-19 bivalent boosters are more likely to get infected.
“Joe Ladapo can talk a little bit more about it…almost every study now has said with these new boosters—you are more likely to get infected with the bivalent booster,” DeSantis said.
It’s important to remember that the COVID-19 vaccines are not 100 percent effective at preventing infection. They protect you against severe illness. That said, there is no sufficient data to support the governor’s claim that bivalent boosters increase your chances of catching the virus.
But let’s start with this question: what is the bivalent COVID-19 booster? According to the FDA, the bivalent vaccine includes the original virus strain, and the omicron variant. It’s a booster shot meant to protect people against two strains of the virus.
According to the CDC, people who got the booster were 84% less likely to be hospitalized. The agency, along with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, later linked the vaccine to the possibility of stroke in people 65 and older. However, they did not find evidence to confirm the risk.
WINK News Trust & Verify reporter Kellie Miller contacted the governor’s press office for clarification on DeSantis’ claim. His team provided two articles and three studies, two of which are not yet peer-reviewed. Regardless, the data did not confirm a link between the bivalent shot and a higher risk of contracting COVID-19.
Articles & Studies provided by Executive Office of the Governor:
Coronavirus Disease 2019 Vaccine Boosting in Previously Infected or Vaccinated Individuals
Effectiveness of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Bivalent Vaccine
COVID-19 primary series and booster vaccination and immune imprinting
Article from Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health
Article in the New England Journal of Medicine
The first study–“Coronavirus Disease 2019 Vaccine Boosting in Previously Infected or Vaccinated Individuals–examined only healthcare employees, and did not suggest the bivalent booster increased the likelihood of infection.
The second unpublished study from the Cleveland Clinic found that there could be an association between the number of prior vaccine doses and an increased risk of contracting COVID-19. However, Dr. Nabin Shrestha, an infectious disease physician and one of the study’s authors, told PolitiFact that the data did not find a link between the bivalent shot and a higher risk of contracting COVID-19. The study ultimately found that the bivalent booster is 30 percent effective in preventing infection. In addition, a Cleveland Clinic spokesperson told PolitiFact that the research in this study cannot be applied to the general public, since it focused on healthcare employees.
The final study–“COVID-19 primary series and booster vaccination and immune imprinting”–has not yet been peer-reviewed, which means the research has yet to be evaluated and should not be used to guide clinical practice. Researchers are still collecting data on the booster’s ability to curb infection, and the latest findings do not suggest the bivalent booster could cause infection or increase the likelihood of infection.