Did Vice President Kamala Harris "admit" that COVID-19 vaccines don't work? No, that's not true: Her tweet that is the basis for the claim is a summary of public health recommendations that reflect reality: No vaccine is 100% effective and breakthrough infections of the delta variant of SARS-CoV-2, however mild among vaccinated persons, have been documented and could result in even vaccinated persons spreading the virus.
The claim about Harris circulated widely in anti-vaccine media, including this September 13, 2021, video of the Stew Peters Show titled "LEAKED VIDEO! DOCS PUSH FEAR LIES -- KABALA HARRIS ADMITS VAXX DOESN'T WORK" (archived here), which opens:
Kabala Harris admits the "vaccine" doesn't work!
Users on social media only saw this title, description and thumbnail:
LEAKED VIDEO! Docs Push Fear LIES - Kabala Harris Admits Vaxx Doesn't Work
The Stew Peters Show
Here's the September 12, 2021, tweet that is the basis for the claim made on Peters' show by conservative commentator DeAnna Lorraine:
By vaccinating the unvaccinated, increasing our testing and masking, and protecting the vaccinated, we can end this pandemic. That's exactly what we are committed to doing.-- Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) September 12, 2021
Harris' tweet makes three points that track with CDC advice:
1. Vaccines work, both to protect individuals from infection and to slow the spread of COVID through families and across communities. Even though some vaccinated people can be re-infected, vaccinations reduce the seriousness of COVID disease. A person with vaccine-induced immunity is less likely to get sick, to harbor the virus and to spread enough virus to infect another person.
2. Masking works, both to protect individuals from infection and to slow the spread of COVID in their families and communities.
3. Because people can be re-infected when at large public gatherings, it became necessary to protect even the vaccinated, as a July 4, 2021, outbreak on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, proved. In close quarters, the stronger virus can spread even to people who expect to be immune. The emergence in 2021 of the virulent delta variant increased the infectiousness of COVID disease, and increased the incidence of "breakthrough" infections, which is when a vaccinated or previously infected person catches the disease again. This is not unique to COVID.
By Lorraine's and Peters' logic, a person who recommends using seatbelts is admitting airbags don't work. Neither precaution is 100% effective in all situations and when attempting to prevent death, an abundance of caution is the default position of public health officials. Similarly, taking steps to protect even vaccinated persons is part of reducing preventable death from a pandemic that had killed 668,000 Americans by September 16, 2021.
Lead Stories has debunked a number of claims by people who mistakenly think vaccines are supposed to be 100% effective, who misunderstand the personal and population protections inherent in pandemic-fighting programs and whose confidence in vaccination is shaken by breakthrough vaccinations, which are a long-established phenomenon. To help readers understand the U.S. public health campaign, Lead Stories constructed the following graphic that breaks down the message about ending the pandemic. It provides links to the supporting documents.
(Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Mayo Clinic public information about vaccines, masks and breakthrough infections)