Karl Lauterbach is probably the worst health minister Germany has ever had. He is also a very stupid person. He really, really wants you to worry about Omicron, but every day Omicron fails to be worrisome. Even as cases surge, hospitalisations remain more or less flat, and official Corona deaths remain well below their peak in 2021, if anything on a slight downward trend.
Like a lot of stupid people, it is very important to Lauterbach that he be perceived as intelligent. Towards this end, he likes to tweet about “studies” and “research.” Because he is a total idiot, he rarely understands what he’s talking about, and often makes a fool of himself.
“Omicron shouldn’t be underestimated,” Lauterbach declared on Saturday. “Research suggests that you can catch it again relatively soon after infection. Longer protection, as with Delta, is less likely. Repeated infections are not without danger.”
Gunhild Alvik Nyborg @GANyborgNew pre-print that found a very limited immune response after infection with omicron. The desired herd immunity effect may according to this be a far dream still: from this, seems you can be re-infected more or less directly after your last infection https://t.co/gEFTD4Yqlv
He’s talking about the paper we looked at last week. Its basic findings are that Omicron breakthrough infections don’t really provide the vaccinated with much Omicron-specific immunity, and that in fact they elicit a very attenuated antibody response overall because they’re so mild. This is not an Omicron-specific effect; humans are continually reinfected by a lot of mild respiratory viruses, presumably because mild infections induce only mild immunity. Lauterbach, in other words, wants you to worry about more severe Delta because it’s dangerous, and he wants you to worry about less severe Omicron because it’ll reinfect you. There’s no way you can ever stop freaking out in Lauterbach-land.
Just the day before, Lauterbach had retweeted some other account, emphasising precisely that the mildness of Omicron means reduced immune protection, compared to prior strains. He gave no signs of understanding the argument; he’s only interested in defending his controversial role in cutting the duration of “recovered” status from six to three months.
However that may be, the new refrain is that Omicron is too mild to get us to the fabled land of Herd Immunity, and so we need to keep training our immune systems to focus on vintage extinct SARS-2 spike, which will also never take us to Herd Immunity.
The Omicron-booster macaque trial has already made the rounds: If you vaccinate monkeys against wild-type SARS-2 spike, and then give them a wild-type SARS-2 spike booster, they develop a more effective antibody response to Omicron, than monkeys that receive Omicron-specific boosters.
This is Original Antigenic Sin, as the study authors admit (from p. 18):
The observation that boosting with either mRNA-1273 or mRNA-Omicron resulted in the expansion of a similarly high frequency of cross-reactive B cells likely stems from the principle of original antigenic sin, otherwise termed antigenic imprinting, whereby prior immune memory is recalled by a related antigenic encounter. ...
The question therefore is whether there is added value from boosting with a heterologous vaccine matched to the dominant circulating variant, or whether cross-reactive B cell recall immunity elicited by boosting with the original vaccine is sufficient to reduce infection and disease severity.
If the Omicron-specific vaccines only protect against Omicron infection because they elicit high levels of antibodies that work against both strains, Omicron-specific vaccines are pointless at best. At worst, they’ll be less effective at calling forth that cross-reactive response than the old vaccines.
Looking to the future … if Omicron, or a closely … related variant remains … dominant … for some years to come, then it is possible that a change in the initial vaccine regimen would be warranted, particularly in immunologically naive populations such as children. ... Importantly, it would need to be established that a switch in COVID-19 vaccine design to match the current dominant variant would not jeapordize responses against variants which may be antigenically distant from Omicron but close to the prototype.
In other words: We vaccinated billions of people and imprinted their immune systems on the wild-type SARS-2 spike protein, which is now extinct, and we hope to vaccinate billions more people against this obsolete protein still, so that their immune systems, too, will focus forever on obsolete spike. We also want to vaccinate children against wild-type spike, and ensure that their immune systems target this obsolete protein indefinitely. However! We should be careful of making similar mistakes in the future. If we vaccinate children against Omicron, other variants might emerge to take advantage of their imprinted immune systems, which is exactly what is happening now.
Our Corona policies have always been absurd, but every day it gets worse. Lauterbach and his ilk want to vaccinate you with old vaccines, because otherwise you’ll face multiple Omicron infections, and multiple infections could be dangerous. The very fact of your vaccination will however do nothing to prevent multiple Omicron infections, and population-wide vaccination will only select for Omicron substrains that more effectively escape our outdated vaccines and guarantee these dreaded infections and reinfections happen more often.