In an interview clip on ABC’s Good Morning America, the Director of the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) Rochelle Walensky referred to a recent study that found over 75% of COVID-19 deaths in fully vaccinated people had occurred among those with at least four risk factors. However, some widely shared social media posts suggested Walensky was talking about all COVID-19 deaths in her remarks.
The original exchange can be seen (here) starting at around starting around 2:35.
The interviewer says to Walensky, “I want to ask you about those encouraging headlines that we’re talking about this morning. This new study showing just how well vaccines are working to prevent severe illness. Given that, is it time to start rethinking how we’re living with this virus? That it’s potentially here to stay?”
Walensky replies, “You know really important study if I may just summarize it. A study of 1.2 million people who were vaccinated between December and October and demonstrated that severe disease occurred in about 0.015% of the people who received their primary series and death in 0.003% of those people. The overwhelming number of deaths, over 75%, occurred in people who had at least four comorbidities. So really these are people who were unwell to begin with. And yes, really encouraging news in the context of Omicron.”
The initial part of her response, that gave details of the study - including the small percentage of deaths, was not included in a clip shared widely on social media (here).
The study referenced by Walensky can be seen here . It involved around 1.2 million individuals between December 2020 and October 2021, and found that among the vaccinated people surveyed, 0.015% (189 people) had severe disease and 0.0033% (36 people) had died. It also found that all those with severe outcomes had at least one risk factor while 78% who died had at least four.
Reuters Fact Check previously explained comorbidity in more detail, here .
Underlying medical conditions are known to increase the likelihood of serious illness and death from COVID-19 (here). The CDC did not immediately respond to a question from Reuters over whether comparable statistics concerning comorbidities existed from a study of all COVID-19 deaths, not just in the vaccinated.
Missing context. The CDC’s Director Rochelle Walensky did not say that 75% of all COVID-19 deaths were among people with at least four risk factors. In comments around vaccine efficacy, Walensky said that a CDC study found that over 75% of deaths among fully vaccinated people were among those with at least four comorbidities.
This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact-checking work here .
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