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Are the new boosters that target omicron better than the previous shots?


President Biden has an extra COVID shot. He rolled up his sleeve yesterday for the latest booster.


PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Now is the time to do it - by Halloween, if you can. That's the best time. And that way you can be protected for the holidays.

FADEL: Some research questions, though, whether the new bivalent boosters that target omicron are any better than the old shots.


Researchers at Columbia and Harvard University studied that. Here's Dr. David Ho at Columbia.

DAVID HO: To our disappointment, the bivalent vaccine did not show superiority over the original vaccine.

INSKEEP: His team found that about a month after getting the shot, people did not have significantly higher levels of antibodies to neutralize the dominant omicron subvariants.

FADEL: But Deepta Bhattacharya at the University of Arizona considers the new studies too small and too short for firm conclusions.

DEEPTA BHATTACHARYA: For those who are saying see, see, I told you so, I would say, let's stand down a little bit and wait for some cleaner data to come out because these studies can't be used to support really one argument or another.

INSKEEP: Dr. John Wherry at the University of Pennsylvania is also saying to wait.

JOHN WHERRY: It's a little bit of a - sort of a reality check or a reset that the bivalent vaccines are not a magic bullet. They're not going to give us, you know, perfect protection from these new omicron variants that are circulating.

FADEL: Only about 20 million people have stepped up to receive a new booster, even though more than 10 times that number - over 200 million people - have been eligible since Labor Day.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.