Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky recently came under fire for her agency's public messaging and guidance on COVID prevention. This week, she encountered another wave of backlash when it was discovered that she was referring to a study on vaccinated populations when talking about rates of COVID deaths in America.
"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," Dr. Walensky said during an appearance on Good Morning America on January 7. The CDC director said it was "encouraging news" in the face of the spread of COVID's highly transmissible Omicron variant.
However, a CDC spokesperson told The Epoch Times in an email that Dr. Walensky was in fact referring to a recent study conducted by her agency that analyzed over 1.2 million Americans who "completed primary vaccination during December 2020-October 2021." Among these vaccinated Americans, the study found that 78% of the people who died from COVID after receiving the vaccine had "at least four other underlying health conditions." Moreover, in all of the deaths, the COVID patient had at least one other risk factor.
The CDC study on vaccinated people found that death among vaccinated people was extremely rare, at just 0.0033%, "with risk factors for severe outcomes being for those over the age of 65, the immunosuppressed, and those with six other underlying conditions."
At the time of her statement, Dr. Walensky did not specify if she was referring to vaccinated or unvaccinated populations, causing some people on Twitter to assume that she was referring to all COVID deaths. This earned her some backlash, particularly from political commentator Clay Travis.
"The CDC director just said over 75 percent of 'covid deaths' occurred in people with at least four comorbidities," Travis wrote on Twitter. "Since Biden can't shut down covid, suddenly all this data is getting shared publicly."
Dr. Walensky was asked by Fox News how many of the 835,000 total U.S. COVID deaths had occurred among those who had comorbidities, but the CDC director failed to give a definite answer, saying that the data will be "forthcoming."
Meanwhile, because Dr. Walensky stressed that there is a need to "protect people with comorbidities from severe #COVID19" in a tweet, many had took offense and claimed she was being insensitive to individuals who have comorbidities or disabilities, the New York Post reported.
In fact, the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund (DREDF) wrote an open letter to Dr. Walensky this week, lamenting that her stating the facts that those who died with COVID were people with "at least four comorbidities...[who are] people who were unwell to begin with" was offensive.
"It perpetuates widely and wrongly held perceptions that disabled people have a worse quality of life than nondisabled people and our lives are more expendable," DREDF executive director Susan Henderson, who called Dr. Walensky's statements "abhorrent," wrote in an open letter.
"We ask that you reflect on your words, the bias behind them, and that you change how you speak about the lives and deaths of disabled people," Henderson concluded.