One of the main rationales for why some U.S. health officials are referring to COVID-19 as a “pandemic of the unvaccinated” is the claim that 97 percent of Americans who have been hospitalized with symptoms of the illness are unvaccinated. During a White House press briefing on July 16, 2021, the director of the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Rochelle Walensky, MD, said that unvaccinated people account for more than 97 percent of hospitalizations in the United States.1
Predictably, the 97 percent figure has been picked up by media outlets and medical associations around the country and cited as proof that this is a “pandemic of the unvaccinated.”2 3 4 5 6 How can one argue with such evidence? I mean, numbers don’t lie, do they? Particularly when they are provided by an authoritative source like the director of the CDC.
CDC Used COVID Hospitalization Data from January-June 2021
However, numbers can sometimes be deceptive or manipulated. In the case of the 97 percent figure given by Dr. Walensky, what she omitted to say at the press briefing was that the figure was based on data collected during January-June 2021. At another White House press briefing on Aug. 5, Dr. Walensky said that the data used to come up with that 97 percent figure were…
data that were from analyses in several states from January through June and didn’t reflect the data that we have now from the Delta variant.7
The problem with using this data to convey the message that 97 percent of Americans hospitalized with COVID are unvaccinated is that it suggests that only three percent of Americans hospitalized with COVID are vaccinated. This misleads the public into crediting the COVID vaccines for the huge discrepancy between unvaccinated hospitalized and vaccinated hospitalized, leading to the inevitable conclusion that the vaccines must be working nearly to perfection.
That conclusion might be valid had there been a relatively equal number of unvaccinated people versus vaccinated people in the U.S. during the January-June timeframe to make a fair and balanced comparison. But there wasn’t.
Most Americans Were Unvaccinated During First Half of 2021
As of Jan. 1, 2021, only 0.5 percent of the U.S. population had been fully vaccinated.8 By Feb. 1, the figure had risen to 1.8 percent of the population. By Mar. 1, it 7.6 percent. By Apr. 1, it was 16.8 percent. By May 1, it was 30.9 percent. On June 1, 40.6 percent of the U.S. population had been fully vaccinated. By the end of June, it was 46.3 percent.9
Of course, there were many more unvaccinated people hospitalized for COVID during January-June 2021. For each of the six months for which the CDC collected data on COVID hospitalizations, there were simply many more unvaccinated people than vaccinated, so you would naturally expect to see many more of them hospitalized than vaccinated people. It’s just basic math.
Here’s an example. On Jan. 1, when only 0.5 percent of the population had been vaccinated, there were 125,047 people hospitalized for COVID in the U.S. Almost all of those people in the hospital were likely unvaccinated. Why? Because almost everybody in the U.S. was unvaccinated. On Feb. 1, when only 1.8 percent of the population had been vaccinated, there were 93,536 people hospitalized for COVID in the U.S. Why? Same reason. And so forth.
For the period in the CDC using data to make its case that this is a “pandemic of the unvaccinated,” the reason the agency is able to do so is because the vast portion of Americans were indeed unvaccinated, not because they were unusually more susceptible to becoming seriously ill with COVID than were vaccinated people. The fact is that, through at least April, there were relatively few people in the U.S. who were vaccinated.
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1 White House. Press Briefing by White House COVID-19 Response Team and Public Health Officials. July 16, 2021.
2 Deliso M. Statistics show the stark risks of not getting vaccinated against COVID-19. ABC News July 19, 2021.
3 Graff A. What to know if you get a rare COVID-19 breakthrough case. SFGATE Aug. 11, 2021.
4 Shannon J. The vaccinated are angry. That’s understandable but unproductive, health experts say. USA Today Aug. 8, 2021.
5 Sullivan B. U.S. COVID Deaths Are Rising Again. Experts Call It A ‘Pandemic Of The Unvaccinated’. NPR July 16, 2021.
6 The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. ACOG and SMFM Recommend COVID-19 Vaccination for Pregnant Individuals. July 30, 2021.
7 White House. Press Briefing by White House COVID-19 Response Team and Public Health Officials. Aug. 5, 2021.
8 Mercola J. How CDC manipulated data to create ‘pandemic of the unvaxxed’ narrative. LifeSite News Aug. 17, 2021.
9 Our World in Data. Share of the population fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
10 The COVID Tracking Project. Totals for the US.