(Editor's Note: This article has been updated to include additional context and notes that CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky was speaking specifically about COVID-19 deaths among the vaccinated population.)
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said 75% of vaccinated people who died of COVID-19 had at least four comorbidities, sparking an outpouring of commentary from people surprised by her statement and others saying, “I told you so.”
The top health official made the comment on ABC’s Good Morning America on Friday, days after Dr. Anthony Fauci said on TV that statistics on child hospitalizations are being overblown.
Vaccine mandate skeptics have said the COVID-19 death toll was inflated by people who died with COVID-19 as opposed to dying of COVID-19, and some of them claimed they were made into pariahs or punished on social media for making these claims.
“The overwhelming number of deaths, over 75%, occurred in people who had at least four comorbidities,” Walenksy said. She added that this was “encouraging news” considering the spread of the omicron variant, which health officials believe is more transmissible than other strains but causes less severe illness.
Walensky was referring to a study that used data from U.S. healthcare facilities to look at more than 12 million adults who completed "primary vaccination" between December 2020 to October 2021. Among the tiny percentage of those who died (36 people), 78% suffered from at least four comorbidities.
Some on Twitter took Walensky’s comment to indicate that if COVID-19 mainly kills people with comorbidities, it’s a good sign.
“It is ‘encouraging’ to (Walensky) that chronically ill and disabled Americans are dying … our deaths clearly don’t count,” tweeted Matthew Cortland, a lawyer who said he suffers from a chronic illness.
The CDC told the Washington Examiner that Walensky’s comment was not meant to marginalize people with existing health problems.
“She is deeply concerned and cares about the health and well-being of people with disabilities and those with medical conditions who have been impacted by COVID-19,” the CDC said. “The CDC director continues her commitment to protect all Americans in this next stage of the pandemic.”