Fact check: Biden is too categorical on COVID vaccines
Washington — President Joe Biden offered an uncategorical guarantee Wednesday that people who get their COVID-19 vaccines are completely protected from infection, sickness and death from the coronavirus. The reality is not that cut and dried.
The vaccines are extremely effective but “breakthrough” infections do occur and the delta variant driving cases among the unvaccinated in the U.S. is not fully understood.
Also Biden inflated the impact of his policies on U.S. jobs created in his first half-year in office, misleadingly stating his administration had done more than any other president. He neglects to mention he had population growth on his side in his comparison.
A look at his remarks in a CNN town hall:
BIDEN: “If you’re vaccinated, you’re not going to be hospitalized, you’re not going to be in the IC unit, and you’re not going to die.” – town hall.
THE FACTS: His remark accurately captures the strong protection the COVID-10 vaccines provide as cases spike among people who have resisted the shots. But it overlooks the rare exceptions.
As of July 12, the government had tallied 5,492 vaccinated people who tested positive for coronavirus and were hospitalized or died. That’s out of more than 159 million fully vaccinated Americans. The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, said “99.5% of all deaths from COVID-19 are in the unvaccinated.”
BIDEN: “You’re not going to get COVID if you have these vaccinations.” – town hall.
THE FACTS: Again, he painted with too broad a brush as he described in stark terms the disparity between those who got their shots and those who haven’t. The disparity is real, but a small number of breakthrough infections happen and health officials say they are not a cause for alarm.
No vaccines are perfect, and the government is keeping a close eye on whether new coronavirus mutants start to outsmart the COVID-19 shots. But for now, federal health officials say even when breakthrough infections occur, they tend to be mild – the vaccines so far remain strongly protective against serious illness.
BIDEN, asked about vaccinated people who get infected: “It may be possible, I know of none where they’re hospitalized, in ICU and or have passed away so at a minimum I can say even if they did contract it, which I’m sorry they did, it’s such a tiny percentage and it’s not life threatening.” – remarks to reporters after the event.
THE FACTS: Once again, too categorical. That is evident from the CDC’s finding that 5,492 vaccinated people who tested positive for coronavirus were hospitalized or died as of July 12. That’s not “none.” But he is correct that it is a small percentage of the more than 159 million fully vaccinated Americans.
BIDEN: “We’ve created more jobs in the first six months of our administration than any time in American history. No president, no administration, has ever created as many jobs.” – town hall.
THE FACTS: His claim is misleading.
While Biden’s administration in the first half year as president has seen more jobs created than any other president – just over 3 million in the five months tracked by jobs reports – that’s partly because the U.S. population is larger than in the past.
When calculated as a percentage of the workforce, job growth under President Jimmy Carter increased more quickly from February through June 1977 than the same five months this year: 2.2% for Carter, compared with 2.1% for Biden.
Since the late 1970s, the U.S. population has grown by more than 100 million people.
It’s true, though, that the economy is growing rapidly – it expanded at a 6.4% annual rate in the first three months of the year – and is expected to grow this year at the fastest pace since 1984.
Biden’s $1.9 trillion rescue package contributed to the vigorous growth, but much of the expansion also reflects a broader bounce-back from the unusually sharp pandemic recession, the deepest downturn since the 1930s. Even before Biden’s package, for example, the International Monetary Fund was projecting U.S. growth of over 5% for this year.
Biden is also leaving out the fact that the U.S. economy remains 6.8 million jobs short of its pre-pandemic level, and the unemployment rate is an elevated 5.9%, up from a five-decade low of 3.5% before the pandemic.
Associated Press writers Lauran Neergaard and Christopher Rugaber in Washington and David Klepper in Providence, Rhode Island, contributed to this report.