On 4 March, media ranging from the Financial Times to the San Diego ABC affiliate gave a cheerful review of a new study from the La Jolla Institute for Immunology.
As the ABC affiliate reported, “New research suggests an important class of immune cells generated by the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are not fooled by the four most concerning coronavirus variants.”
Media and political leaders looking to convince citizens from breaking lockdown restrictions continue to raise concerns over new variants of the coronavirus, despite the fact that all viruses mutate and no evidence has been provided to prove the variants are as infectious as the original.
The ABC news report states that the new study:
“Offers an encouraging clue that the T cells produced by the vaccines can still prevent severe disease from the trickiest known variants, even ones with mutations that might elude antibodies…. However, the scientists caution the results are based on a collection of lab tests and are not definitive clinical proof. The research was posted on a pre-print server, meaning it has not yet undergone peer review.”
TRENDPOST: Note the phrase “encouraging clue” (cheerleading), “trickiest known variants” (scare tactic), and then the admission that the lab tests “are not definitive clinical proof.” 
If there’s no definitive scientific proof, why an article touting its importance?
Further evidence of over-stating the quality of the study is the quote from Dr. Alessandro Sette, one of the lead researchers: “It is exciting for us, but I want to make sure we do not over-interpret these results.” 
He added, “We still need to wear masks and be socially distanced and most importantly vaccinate as many people as possible as quickly as possible.”
The report continues its theme of pumping up the study while admitting its weakness: “Still, doctors who were not involved in the study said it offered a glimmer of hope. ‘I think it’s great news,’ said Dr. Christian Ramers of Family Health Centers of San Diego.”
Any “glimmer” gets headlines while lack of empirical, scientific proof gets played down.
The ABC report concludes with lead researcher Dr. Sette admitting the results of the study “doesn’t mean these people are protected against the virus, but it’s plausible that they might be infected with a less severe disease.”
Note the words “plausible” (not probable) and “might” (not won’t).

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