CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky admitted that the 99.5 percent claim was based on faulty data. During an Aug. 5 press briefing, she said that the false percentage was derived "from analyses in several state states from January  through June ." Walensky added that the data "did not reflect the data [CDC has] now from the delta variant."
Based on Walensky's statement, the CDC picked states and the timeframe that best suited its desired clinical outcomes. It then interpreted the data to arrive at numbers in support of COVID-19 inoculation. However, actual CDC data showed that the number of vaccinated people who died of COVID-19 in May 2021 while hospitalized was 15 percent higher.
Despite the revelation, Walensky doubled down on the need for vaccination against the delta variant. "I do want to reiterate, though, that based on the data we're seeing universally … our [COVID-19] hospitalizations … and deaths, they are overwhelmingly unvaccinated people."
Other health officials agreed with the CDC director's call for increased inoculations, even though the data used was false. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci said: "99.5 percent of the deaths in the U.S. are among unvaccinated people, and 0.5 percent are among vaccinated people. If there ever was a statistic that would stimulate someone to get vaccinated, I think this one is it."
Surgeon General Vivek Murthy also called for increased COVID-19 vaccination efforts in light of the spread of the new delta variant. "I am worried about what is to come because we are seeing increasing cases among the unvaccinated in particular. [If] you are vaccinated, you are very well protected against hospitalization and death. [Unfortunately,] that is not true if you are not vaccinated," he said.
Claims by Walensky, Fauci and Murthy that unvaccinated individuals made up the majority of COVID-19 patients in hospitals were eventually proven false by reports from other countries. In fact, an Israeli doctor warned that a huge percentage of Israel's hospitalized COVID-19 patients were inoculated.
Dr. Kobi Haviv told Channel 13 News that 85 to 90 percent of Israelis hospitalized for COVID-19 were vaccinated and that 95 percent of that group had the most severe symptoms. "I understand that most of the patients are vaccinated, even 'severe' patients," he said. Because of the sudden spike in COVID-19 cases, Haviv said more and more hospitals have opened COVID-19 wards. The increase in cases suggested that the vaccine's effectiveness is waning, he added. (Related: 95% of severe patients in Israeli hospitals are vaccinated, warns doctor.)
The same issue was also observed in Singapore. According to a July 23 Reuters report, vaccinated Singaporeans made up 75 percent of new COVID-19 cases. The report came amid the Singaporean government's increased efforts to vaccinate citizens. Teo Yik Ying, dean of the Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health at the National University of Singapore, said: "As more and more people are vaccinated in Singapore, we will see more infections happening among vaccinated people."
However, the same Reuters report noted: "While the data shows that vaccines are highly effective in preventing severe cases, it also underscores the risk that even those inoculated could be contagious, so that inoculation alone may not suffice to halt transmission."
According to risk communication expert Matthew Seeger of Detroit's Wayne State University, public health experts over-emphasized the effectiveness of vaccines. A lack of communication about breakthrough infections coupled with the realization that the COVID-19 vaccines are not perfect may feel like a betrayal, he said. (Related: Public Health England: Virus levels the same in vaccinated people vs. those who aren't.)
Seeger added that health officials had "done a great job of telling the public" that the COVID-19 shots were "miracle vaccines." But he continued: "We have probably fallen a little into the trap of over-reassurance."
CDC.news has more articles about the public health agency's push for COVID-19 vaccination.