Fact check: Fauci didn’t say half of CDC, FDA employees refused COVID-19 vaccine
The claim: Dr. Anthony Fauci and Peter Marks said 40% to 50% of CDC and FDA employees are refusing the COVID-19 vaccine
A post shared widely on social media platforms asserts two top United States public health officials said 40% to 50% of employees at the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are refusing to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
The claim follows testimony from Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, at a Senate hearing on the country’s coronavirus response.
“NEW: About 40-50% of CDC, FDA employees are refusing the COVID-19 vaccine according to Fauci, Marks” reads a screenshot of a May 14 tweet from the account Breaking 911. The screenshot was shared by Facebook and Instagram users on May 15.
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The original Breaking 911 tweet has been deleted. However, an archived version from May 15 shows it had more than 15,000 likes and more than 6,000 retweets. Breaking 911 has previously shared misinformation about election fraud in Arizona and the efficacy of face masks.
This claim is wrong, too. Fauci and Marks never said 40% to 50% of employees at the CDC and the FDA refuse to be vaccinated.
USA TODAY reached out to Breaking 911 and social media users who shared the claim for comment.
Claim distorts comments from hearing
The Breaking 911 tweet stems from a May 11 Senate hearing during which public health officials testified on the country’s coronavirus response. The tweet misrepresents what officials said during that hearing.
Fauci, Marks, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, and David Kessler, chief science officer of the White House COVID-19 response team, testified during the hearing.
In the middle of the hearing, Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., questioned Fauci on what percentage of employees at the nation’s public health agencies had been vaccinated.
Speaking about employees of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Fauci responded saying, “You know I’m not 100% sure, senator. But I think it’s probably a little bit more than half, probably around 60%.”
Burr posed the same question to Marks, who said he couldn’t give “the exact number” of vaccinated FDA employees but that it was “probably in the same range” of 60%.
Walensky told the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee that CDC employees have the option to submit their vaccination status. However, because it is not required by the federal government, the exact percentage is unknown, she said.
Breaking 911 attempted to clarify its claim in a subsequent tweet writing, “50-60% percent of employees are vaccinated according to Fauci and Marks, meaning 50-40% of employees are refusing the vaccine.”
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That claim is misleading.
Fauci, Marks and Walensky never said employees were “refusing the vaccine.”
According to the CDC, about 62% of adults in the U.S. have had at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine as of May 29.
Our rating: False
The claim that Fauci and Marks said 40% to 50% of FDA and CDC employees are refusing to get vaccinated against COVID-19 is FALSE, based on our research. At a Senate hearing, Fauci and Marks estimated 60% of employees had received the COVID-19 vaccine. Their statements never mentioned the percentage of people “refusing” to get vaccinated. Walensky did not provide an exact percentage of employees at the CDC that have been vaccinated because the federal government does not require employees to report a vaccination status.
Our fact-check sources:
- C-SPAN, May 11, Dr. Fauci and CDC Director Walensky Testify on Efforts to Combat COVID-19
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, accessed May 30, COVID Data Tracker
- PolitiFact, May 18, No, Fauci and FDA head didn’t say 40-50% of CDC, FDA staff refusing COVID shots
- USA TODAY, Nov. 11, 2020, Fact check: Post about stolen – and returned – Arizona ballots lacks context
- Factcheck.org, March 19, Posts Distort CDC Study Supporting Mask Mandates to Reduce COVID-19
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