Are COVID-19 Vaccines Still One Giant Experiment?!

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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”!

đź’ĄBREAKING: The Atlantic recognizes reality. WOW. Hell must have frozen over. “The Atlantic” published this by a staff writer.

“Covid shots are still one giant experiment”

We’re finally allowed to call the experiment an experiment. We were called so nasty names for two years for sharing this truth. It’s now mainstream.

“COVID Shots Are Still One Giant Experiment”

Injecting billions of people with a new technology never before administered to humans with zero long term safety data is exactly a 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, 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?

This fall, millions of Americans might be lining up for yet another kind of COVID vaccine:  their first-ever dose that lacks the strain that ignited the pandemic more than three and a half years ago. Unlike the current, bivalent vaccine, which guards against two variants at once, the next one could, like the first version of the shot, have only one main ingredient—the spike protein of the XBB.1 lineage of the Omicron variant, the globe’s current dominant clade.

That plan isn’t yet set. The FDA still has to convene a panel of experts, then is expected to make a final call on autumn’s recipe next month. But several experts told me they hope the agency follows the recent recommendation of a World Health Organization advisory group and focuses the next vaccine only on the strains now circulating.

The switch in strategy—from two variants to one, from original SARS-CoV-2 plus Omicron to XBB.1 alone—would be momentous but wise, experts told me, reflecting the world’s updated understanding of the virus’s evolution and the immune system’s quirks

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.

By now, it’s long been clear that vaccines are essential for preventing severe disease and death, and that some cadence of boosting is probably necessary to keep the shots’ effectiveness high.

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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Dr. Adrian Wong has been writing about tech and science since 1997, even publishing a book with Prentice Hall called Breaking Through The BIOS Barrier (ISBN 978-0131455368) while in medical school.

He continues to devote countless hours every day writing about tech, medicine and science, in his pursuit of facts in a post-truth world.


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