Well, this is kind of, um, unexpected for a mainstream American newspaper:
Growing evidence ... suggests that repeated vaccinations may make people more susceptible to [the latest COVID variant, XBB] and could be fueling the virus's rapid evolution.
I'm gonna need to put on my trusty ol' spectacles for this one:
Here's the basic, simple gist of it: The vaccines as originally rolled out were meant to target one specific variant of COVID-19. But "when new and markedly different strains come along, the immune system responds less effectively:"
Bivalent vaccines that target the Wuhan and BA.5 variants (or breakthrough infections with the latter) prompt the immune system to produce antibodies that target viral regions the two strains have in common. In Darwinian terms, mutations that allow the virus to evade common antibodies win out — they make it "fitter."
XBB has evolved to elude antibodies induced by the vaccines and breakthrough infections. Hence, the Nature study suggests, "current herd immunity and BA.5 vaccine boosters may not efficiently prevent the infection of Omicron convergent variants."
Got that? Not only can XBB evade the vaccines, it can evade antibodies from the infections people got from earlier breakthrough infections. It's an apparent cascading failure of vaccination.
Here's a big kicker from one study, meanwhile:
Notably, workers who had received more doses were at higher risk of getting sick. Those who received three more doses were 3.4 times as likely to get infected as the unvaccinated, while those who received two were only 2.6 times as likely.
This is, to put it mildly, kind of insane. And what are medical officials doing with this information? Are they revising their outlook? Changing their hypotheses?
Two years ago, vaccines were helpful in reducing severe illness, particularly among the elderly and those with health risks like diabetes and obesity. But experts refuse to concede that boosters have yielded diminishing benefits and may even have made individuals and the population as a whole more vulnerable to new variants like XBB.