As of early December, unvaccinated adults were about 97 times more likely to die from COVID-19 than fully vaccinated people who had received boosters, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data. But a Twitter user falsely implied that the death rate for the unvaccinated included people who had only one or two doses of a vaccine. The CDC said “unvaccinated” means someone has “not been verified to have received COVID-19 vaccine.”
A Feb. 5 tweet from President Joe Biden’s official government Twitter account — @POTUS — said that “unvaccinated individuals are 97 times more likely to die” from COVID-19 “compared to those who are boosted.”
That’s accurate, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s most recent analysis of data from 24 U.S. jurisdictions.
The CDC says that, as of Dec. 4, the weekly COVID-19 death rate among unvaccinated adults was 9.74 per 100,000 population, and the rate was 0.1 per 100,000 population for people 18 and older who were fully vaccinated with a booster dose.
The White House confirmed in an email to FactCheck.org that the tweet was based on the CDC’s data from early December.
However, a Twitter user falsely implied that the death rate for the unvaccinated was inflated by including people who had received only one or two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.
“Here’s the deal: classifying people who have 1 or 2 jabs as ‘unvaccinated’ is ridiculous,” Libertarians: Diligently Plotting tweeted in response to the POTUS account. An image of that tweet was posted to the Facebook page of “Libertarians: Diligently Plotting to Take Over the World & Leave You Alone,” which has over 71,000 followers.
But the CDC said it only counted people who had not received any COVID-19 vaccine doses as unvaccinated.
A footnote on the CDC’s “Rates of COVID-19 Cases and Deaths by Vaccination Status” webpage says “unvaccinated” means people who have “not been verified to have received COVID-19 vaccine.” In addition, that CDC page says “partially vaccinated people who received at least one FDA-authorized vaccine dose but did not complete a primary series” were excluded.
For most people, the primary vaccination series is: two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, given three weeks apart; two doses of the Moderna vaccine, given four weeks apart; or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Someone is not considered “fully vaccinated” until at least 14 days after the second dose of either the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccine or at least 14 days after one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
What’s more, the CDC separately tracks fully vaccinated people who have only received the primary vaccination series. As of Dec. 4, the weekly COVID-19 death rate among adults “fully vaccinated without booster dose” was 0.71 per 100,000 — which was about seven times higher than the rate for those fully vaccinated who also had received a booster shot.
Here’s how CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky explained the data in a Feb. 2 press briefing by the White House COVID-19 Response Team and public health officials:
Walensky, Feb. 2: Similar to what I showed you last week, vaccination and booster doses substantially decrease the risk of death from COVID-19. Looking at the data from the week ending Dec. 4, the number of average weekly deaths for those who are unvaccinated was 9.7 per 100,000 people, but only 0.7 per 100,000 people for those who were vaccinated.
This means the risk of dying from COVID-19 was 14 times higher for people who were unvaccinated compared to those who received only a primary series.
For those who were boosted, the average of weekly deaths was 0.1 per 100,000 people, meaning that unvaccinated individuals were 97 times more likely to die compared to those who were boosted.
She clearly provided different COVID-19 risk assessments for the unvaccinated, the fully vaccinated without a booster and the fully vaccinated who had been boosted.
Editor’s note: SciCheck’s COVID-19/Vaccination Project is made possible by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The foundation has no control over our editorial decisions, and the views expressed in our articles do not necessarily reflect the views of the foundation. The goal of the project is to increase exposure to accurate information about COVID-19 and vaccines, while decreasing the impact of misinformation.
President Joe Biden (@POTUS). “Here’s the deal: Unvaccinated individuals are 97 times more likely to die compared to those who are boosted. Protect yourself and those around you by getting vaccinated and boosted today.” Twitter. 5 Feb 2022.
Libertarians: Diligently Plotting (@LibertariansDP). “Here’s the deal: classifying people who have 1 or 2 jabs as ‘unvaccinated’ is ridiculous.” Twitter. 5 Feb 2022.
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Rates of COVID-19 Cases and Deaths by Vaccination Status. Cdc.gov. Accessed 8 Feb 2022.
White House. Press Briefing by White House COVID-19 Response Team and Public Health Officials. Transcript. Whitehouse.gov. 2 Feb 2022.