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- American political advisor and White House press secretary
White House press secretary Jen Psaki: “You are 17 times more likely to go to the hospital if you’re not vaccinated, 20 times more likely to die.”
PolitiFact's ruling: True
Here's why: On Jan. 10, when the U.S. reported 1.35 million new COVID-19 cases — the highest daily total for any country on record — White House press secretary Jen Psaki faced pushback regarding President Joe Biden’s assertion that the pandemic is, at this point, "a pandemic of the unvaccinated."
During a press briefing that day, Fox News reporter Peter Doocy implied that Biden’s characterization was inaccurate.
"I understand that the science says that vaccines prevent death," he said. "But I’m triple vaxxed, still got COVID. You’re triple vaxxed, still got COVID. Why is the president still referring to this as a ‘pandemic of the unvaccinated?’"
In her response, Psaki emphasized that vaccination status contributes to a "significant difference" in COVID-19 experiences.
"I had been triple vaxxed," she said. "I had minor symptoms. There is a huge difference between that and being unvaccinated."
She continued: "You are 17 times more likely to go to the hospital if you’re not vaccinated, 20 times more likely to die. And those are significant, serious statistics. So, yes, the impact for people who are unvaccinated is far more dire than those who are vaccinated."
A spokesperson for Psaki said she was referring to publicly available data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And the CDC data support her claim.
In October, unvaccinated people had 10 times the risk of testing positive for COVID-19 and 20 times the risk of dying from COVID-19 compared with people who were fully vaccinated with additional or booster doses, according to the CDC’s COVID Data Tracker.
On COVID-19 hospitalizations, CDC data from the end of November 2021 indicated that unvaccinated adults ages 18 years and older were hospitalized with COVID-19 at a rate of about 67.8 per 100,000. By comparison, the rate for fully vaccinated individuals was about 3.9 per 100,000, meaning unvaccinated people were about 17 times more likely to be hospitalized due to COVID-19.
Data from Texas also supports Psaki’s claims. According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, data from September indicated that "Texans not vaccinated against COVID-19 were about 20 times more likely to suffer a COVID-19-associated death and 13 times more likely to test positive than people who were fully vaccinated."
With the U.S. now averaging more than 700,000 new coronavirus cases every day, the data shows that people who are unvaccinated are at a higher risk of severe illness and death than those who are vaccinated.
The CDC says scientists are currently researching how protected fully vaccinated people will be against infection, hospitalization and death where the omicron variant is concerned. The highly transmissible variant began to spread in the U.S. in early December and is fueling a surge that experts predict could last through January.
But some of the most recent omicron surge data from cities New York and Seattle indicates that COVID-19 vaccines still "radically reduce the chance of severe COVID illness," according to a data analysis by the New York Times.
Data on COVID-19 deaths from those cities indicates a relatively low risk of death for people who are vaccinated. Deaths among the vaccinated are expected to rise due to an increase in vaccinated people who have contracted the virus. "They are likely to be concentrated among people in vulnerable health, including the elderly and those with a serious underlying medical condition like a previous organ transplant — especially if they’re not boosted."
Data on deaths lags behind data on infections by about three weeks. But the Times reported that the early numbers suggest any increases in deaths among the vaccinated will be comparatively modest. "Deaths among unvaccinated New Yorkers and Seattleites had already begun to surge in December," the Times wrote. "Deaths among the vaccinated had not."
Psaki said "You are 17 times more likely to go to the hospital if you’re not vaccinated, 20 times more likely to die," compared to people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
The most complete data available from the CDC and research from Texas support this claim. While those studies are based on data collected prior to omicron variant spreading in the U.S., early data from New York and Seattle in December and January continue to suggest a significant gap between the experiences of the unvaccinated and the vaccinated who become infected.
We rate this claim True.
WhiteHouse.gov, "Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jen Psaki," Jan. 10, 2022
Instagram post, Jan. 10, 2022
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Rates of COVID-19 Cases and Deaths by Vaccination Status," accessed Jan. 12, 2022
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Omicron Variant: What You Need to Know," accessed Jan. 12, 2022
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Rates of laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 hospitalizations by vaccination status," accessed Jan. 12, 2022
Texas Department of State Health Services, "Texas Data Shows Unvaccinated People 20 times More Likely to Die From COVID-19," Nov. 8, 2021
Texas Department of State Health Services, "COVID-19 Cases and Deaths by Vaccination Status," accessed Jan. 12, 2022
NPR, "There is a record number of new COVID cases as well as hospitalizations," Jan. 10, 2022
Business Insider, "Psaki and Fox News reporter spar over Biden’s ‘pandemic of the unvaccinated’ comments: ‘You’re 17 times more likely to go to the hospital if you’re not vaccinated, 20 times more likely to die,’" Jan. 10, 2022
USA Today, "US averaging 700K new COVID cases per day; Rep. Ocasio-Cortez tests positive: Updates," Jan. 9, 2022
Kaiser Health News, "One Day, 1.35 Million Covid Infections: US Reports Shocking Record Cases," Jan. 11, 2022
Reuters, "U.S. reports 1.35 million COVID-19 cases in a day, shattering global record," Jan. 11, 2022
WhiteHouse.gov, "Remarks by President Biden on Fighting the COVID-19 Pandemic," Sept. 9, 2021
The Washington Post, "Biden: Coronavirus is 'a pandemic of the unvaccinated,’" July 29, 2021
The Washington Post, "The overwrought pushback on the ‘pandemic of the unvaccinated,’" Jan. 11, 2021
The New York Times, "Early Data Hints at Omicron’s Potential Toll Across America," Jan. 9, 2022
The New York Times, "In Omicron Hot Spots, Hospitals Fill Up, but I.C.U.s May Not," Jan. 4, 2022
The New York Times, "A Growing Gap," Jan. 11, 2022
Twitter, tweet from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention verified account, Sept. 23, 2021
This article originally appeared on Austin American-Statesman: Are unvaccinated people 17 times more likely to be hospitalized?