FACT CHECK: Did CDC Director Rochelle Walensky Say 75% of All Covid Deaths Involve People With 4 Comorbidities?

The claim is false as Walensky's comments were misrepresented as only a portion of what she said was used by the anti-vaxxers to spread false information about the pandemic.

Over the past couple of days, a strange claim has been doing the rounds that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) director Dr. Rochelle Walensky has claimed that 75 percent of all Covid-19 deaths involved people with at least four comorbidities. Conservative commentators immediately took to social media to post messages claiming that pandemic is overblown and it is not as dangerous as the government has been claiming.

However, truth is that that the message has been distorted as Walensky said something different and anti-vaxxers have been trying to mislead people by spreading rumors. To put it in simple words the percentage is correct but the most important context is missing in the false claim.

The Origin

False Claim CDC
The False Claim posted on YouTube about CDC YouTube grab

The claim first appeared on January 7 in a YouTube video, which was published by Homo vivus in terra with the title "CDC Director confesses at least 4 comorbidities in over 75% of the COVID listed deaths!" The claim in the YouTube message read: Dr Rochelle Walensky CDC Director said on GMA "the overwhelming number of death [sic] over 75% occurred in people who had at least 4 comorbidities, so really these are people who were unwell to begin with, and yes really encouraging news..."

People immediately started believing in the claim with many known conservatives posting the message on social media. This also included the likes of Donald Trump Jr. who tweeted: "75% of "Covid Deaths" were in people with at least 4 comorbidities according to the CDC. That's it. That's the tweet."

This was followed by another comment from television producer and CEO of the anti-vaccination group Informed Consent Action Network, Del Bigtree, who Tweeted: "CDC director admits over 75 percent of Covid deaths had at least 4 pathological conditions (comorbidities). Since the total death rate is 0.27% this means healthy people have a 0.0% death risk. #WakeUp #NothingToFearButFearItself."

Such tweets and related comments that the Walensky claimed that 75 percent of the Covid-19 death were in people with four comorbidities soon went viral making people fall prey to the claim. However, fact is that the claim is completely false as Walensky's comments were misrepresented as only a portion of what she said was used by the anti-vaxxers and conservatives to spread false information about the pandemic and making people believe that the disease is overblown and isn't dangerous.

The Truth

Fast is that CDC never said that 75 percent of the Covid deaths were in people with at least 4 comorbidities. The percentage is correct but the most important aspect of the message is missing. It is true that Walensky did appear in an interview but what she said is that according to a new study it has been found that 75 percent of such deaths among "fully vaccinated" individuals involved people with four comorbidities.

YouTube

Contrary to the posts claiming that the pandemic is overblown and doesn't pose a threat or vaccines are a farse, this study supports the idea that vaccinations are quite effective against COVID-19.

The YouTube video that makes the false claim takes an excerpt of Walensky's interview with ABC's "Good Morning America" (GMA) on January 7, 2022, which in reality happened. However, it only provides the second half of her comments on the study evaluating the efficacy of Covid vaccines in preventing severe illness. ABC also aired a truncated version of what she said. Here are Walensky's edited comments: "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 ...

Walensky briefly summarized the study on 1.2 million vaccinated individuals and then said: "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."

However, only the last sentence was used by her critics and the conservative commentators to distort facts and spread misinformation that vaccines are of no use and the pandemic is overblown.

It's clear in the original video that Walensky was talking about fully vaccinated individuals but the edited version of this clip being circulated on social media makes it seem as if she was referring to the overallCOVID-19 deaths in the United States, which has crossed over 830,000.

The new CDC study only includes fully vaccinated people and does not represent those who have not received their vaccine shots. Of the more than 1.2 million vaccinated people in the study, 36 of them died of Covid-19. Of that number, 28 of them had four or more comorbidities. Only a tiny fraction of those who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 are dying. But of that group, more than 75% had at least four elevated risk factors.

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