COVID-19 vaccines will make the virus more dangerous, make SARS-CoV-2 more dangerous due to a mechanism called antibody-dependent enhancement (ADE)
Inadequate support: COVID-19 vaccines have shown no signs of antibody-dependent improvement (ADE) in animal studies or in people vaccinated. On the contrary, the evidence indicates that vaccination reduces the risk of infection and the severity of the disease.
Denature the source: Fully vaccinated people who are infected tend to have less virus than unvaccinated people. The video misinterprets an NBC News article reporting new data on the Delta variant in particular. When infected with this variant, vaccinated people may have similar viral levels as unvaccinated people, but not higher than the video claims.
Antibody-dependent enhancement (ADE) is a mechanism that occurs when antibodies cannot neutralize a virus but instead increase its ability to infect cells, making the disease worse. While ADE was a concern during the development of the COVID-19 vaccine, prior knowledge has enabled researchers to minimize this risk in the early stages. COVID-19 vaccines have shown no signs of causing more serious illness in animal studies, clinical trials, or the vaccine rollout. On the contrary, all COVID-19 vaccines authorized by the FDA are very effective in preventing serious illness.
FULL CLAIM: ” The [COVID-19] the vaccine makes the virus more infectious than it would occur without vaccination ”; ” the [viral] the titers in the vaccinated are in fact higher than in the unvaccinated ”
On July 28, 2021, the War Room: Pandemic podcast posted this video interview between host Steve Bannon and vaccine and clinical consultant Robert Malone. The video was shared widely on social media platforms, receiving over 25,000 interactions on Facebook, Instagram, Reddit and Twitter (see examples here, here, here and here)
Bannon and Malone have previously spread misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines. In November 2020, Twitter permanently suspended Bannon after suggesting that some US officials like Anthony Fauci be beheaded, violating the platform’s policies against the “glorification of violence.” YouTube then removed the podcast’s channel in January 2021 for violating the platform’s policies on disinformation.
Malone’s interview focused on the main claim that COVID-19 vaccination will make SARS-CoV-2 more dangerous due to a mechanism called antibody-dependent improvement (ADE). ADE occurs when antibodies cannot neutralize a virus but rather facilitate its ability to infect cells. This phenomenon increases the risk that vaccinated individuals will develop more serious illness when exposed to the virus.
Claims that COVID-19 vaccines cause ADE began circulating on social media platforms at the start of the pandemic. Such claims are baseless and in fact contradict scientific evidence, as we explain below.
ADE is not a characteristic of a particular vaccine but of a disease itself. The first reports of ADRs came from patients infected with the dengue virus. Researchers observed that a previous infection with one of the four variants of the virus often worsened the symptoms of the disease if the person had a second infection with a different variant. This phenomenon has caused problems in the development of vaccines against dengue fever, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), measles, and some coronaviruses, including severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV-1) and respiratory syndrome coronavirus. of the Middle East (MERS-CoV).
The risk of ADE was a real concern when developing COVID-19 vaccine candidates. However, prior knowledge has helped researchers minimize this risk in the early stages of COVID-19 vaccine development.. This influenced critical decisions during vaccine design, such as targeting the spike protein instead of other viral proteins that had caused ADE in past coronavirus vaccine candidates.. Researchers also conducted specific animal studies to detect ADE and closely monitored clinical trial participants for any signs of this phenomenon in COVID-19 vaccine candidates..
The result of this awareness is that the COVID-19 vaccines developed so far have shown no signs of ADE in animal studies, clinical trials or during vaccine deployment. Real-world studies further show that all FDA-cleared COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective in preventing serious illness and death.[5,6]. Additionally, COVID-19 infections in fully vaccinated individuals are rare and tend to produce milder symptoms than in those who have not received the vaccine.[6,7]. This is exactly the opposite of what one would expect if ADE were to occur.
During the interview, Malone further claimed that SARS-CoV-2 variants “most likely develop in people who have been vaccinated”, increasing the risk of ADRs. As health comments have been covered in previous reviews, the current evidence does not support the claim that COVID-19 vaccines lead to more viral variants, and in fact contradict it.
Whenever the virus replicates, it can introduce mutations, which are changes in its genetic sequence. These changes are random and are a natural process of viral evolution. The more infections the virus causes, the more it replicates, increasing the likelihood of generating new mutations that could spread as new variants. Studies show that long-lasting infections also promote the development of new mutations.
If COVID-19 vaccines lead to more variants, regions with higher vaccination rates would see more new variants circulating among the population. This is not the case. In fact, all the current worrisome variants appeared in 2020, before the start of the vaccination campaigns. Because COVID-19 vaccines effectively prevent infections, hospitalizations, and deaths, they also make the virus less likely to mutate and the spread of new variants. In contrast, unvaccinated individuals are more likely to be infected and develop severe COVID-19, increasing the chances of new variants emerging.
Given the above evidence that COVID-19 vaccines do not worsen disease, why did Malone claim that COVID-19 vaccines cause EMA?
During the interview, Malone referred to a July 27, 2021 NBC News article discussing an upcoming update to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) face mask guidelines. This update reversed the previous indoor mask policy and recommended that fully vaccinated people wear indoor masks again in places with high transmission rates.
According to Malone, NBC News reported that this change in guidelines responded to new data suggesting that people vaccinated against COVID-19 have more virus than people who are not vaccinated. Malone also shared the claim in a tweet, with a screenshot of a USA Today article echoing that of NBC News. USA Today has removed this part of the article in a later update. However, neither NBC nor USA Today said what Malone claimed:
“Federal health officials still believe that fully vaccinated individuals represent a very small amount of transmission. However, some vaccinated people could carry higher levels of the virus than previously thought and potentially pass it on to others. “ NBC News.
NBC News, citing unnamed officials with knowledge of the decision, reported that it came after new data suggests vaccinated individuals may have higher levels of the virus and infect others amid the spate of cases caused by the delta variant of the coronavirus. “ United States today.
Multiple studies show that the few people who develop COVID-19 after receiving the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine tend to have a lower viral load than unvaccinated people[8,9]. New data suggests viral levels in vaccinated individuals who are infected with the Delta variant may be as high as in unvaccinated individuals, but not higher than Malone claimed. These data imply that some vaccinated people who are infected could still pass the virus on to others and this is what prompted the CDC’s decision to reverse the face mask policy, as the NBC article reported. News.
In summary, Malone twisted the NBC News article by claiming that vaccinated individuals have higher levels of the virus than unvaccinated individuals, which is incorrect. Vaccinated people who are infected usually have less virus than unvaccinated people. When infected with the Delta variant in particular, viral levels in vaccinated individuals may be similar to those in the unvaccinated, but not higher.
COVID-19 vaccines are very effective in preventing severe cases of COVID-19 and reducing the risk of infection. Contrary to what Malone claims, vaccinated people who are infected tend to have milder symptoms than unvaccinated people. By reducing the risk of infection and serious illness, COVID-19 vaccines also limit the spread of the virus within the population, making the emergence of new variants less likely.
Medical chemist Derek Lowe has done in his blog in Science Translational Medicine a detailed analysis of ADE in the context of COVID-19 vaccines. He also discussed previous research on ADE in different diseases and the mechanisms that can lead to it.