The latest research out of Israel appears to confirm what skeptics have long feared: even two or three booster shots aren't enough to protect somebody - even those who are perfectly healthy - from being infected with the omicron variant.
Sheba Hospital in Tel Aviv last month tested a fourth jab given to more than 270 medical workers; 154 got the Pfizer jab, and 120 received Moderna's jab.
The researchers' conclusions, revealed Monday, found that both groups showed a "slightly higher" increase in antibodies following the fourth injection than they saw after the third. Unfortunately, the levels produced still weren't high enough to prevent infection via the omicron variant, which is responsible for the bulk of new infections.
"Despite increased antibody levels, the fourth vaccine only offers a partial defense against the virus," said Dr. Gili Regev-Yochay, director of the hospital’s infection disease unit leading the study.
The study saw "many infected with Omicron who received the fourth dose," she said. "Granted, a bit less than in the control group, but still a lot of infections."
"The vaccines, which were more effective against previous variants, offer less protection versus Omicron," Dr. Regev-Yochay said. They added that the vaccines are "not good enough" to prevent infection with the less-severe new variant.
Data from the study hasn't yet been published in full; only the conclusions have.
But it was enough to raise questions about Israel's decision to be the first country in the world to start doling out a second booster jab to those deemed most at risk.
Even after publicizing its conclusions, Sheba Hospital called for "continuing the vaccination drive...even though the vaccine doesn’t provide optimal protection against getting infected with the variant."
The WHO will likely be less than pleased, as the organization has repeatedly urged developed democracies to abandon booster drives and instead allocate more jabs to poorer countries where vaccination is far less pervasive.
Local media reported that Sheba Hospital was pressured by the government to release its statement urging Israelis to get their second booster after top Israeli officials didn't appreciate the study's findings.
The director of Israeli's Health Ministry, Dr. Nahman Ash, insisted that the country's decision to dole out second booster jabs wasn't a "mistake", while PM Naftali Bennett insisted that doling out a 4th shot to some Israelis would continue to help the government "safeguard public health."