Does a newly released dataset show that COVID-19 is a deadly "experimental toxin"? And does Dr. Anthony Fauci's resignation have anything to do with it? No, neither are true: the claims recycle old falsehoods based on a distortion of publicly available information, and new reports do not support it. Fauci, 81, the country's top virologist, started talking about stepping down in spring 2022 as the overall epidemiologic picture of the pandemic started to improve.
The claim appeared in an Instagram post on November 23, 2022. The image said:
The vaccinated now account for a majority of COVID deaths. Thanksgiving for Fauci's exit.
The caption continued:
And they are still pushing to stick us with their experimental toxin......
Here is what the post looked like on Instagram at the time of writing:
(Source: Instagram screenshot taken on Nov 24 15:37:20 2022)
The entry contained several recycled false claims.
COVID vaccines are not "experimental." As Lead Stories previously wrote, all three companies producing the shots in the U.S. finished their trial studies before the mass rollout of the vaccines: Pfizer and Moderna in December 2020 and Janssen in April 2021. Then, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) independently analyzed the results, ingredients, manufacturing methods and safety.
Under Emergency Use Authorization, the agency approved the first two vaccines in 2020 and the third one in 2021. In August 2021, the Pfizer vaccine got full approval by the FDA. Moderna was granted a long-term license in January 2022.
COVID vaccines are not "toxins." According to the CDC website, they "contain ingredients that help your body build this immunity." Not only are its active ingredients safe, but also additional components that are crucial to storage and proper delivery to the system pose no additional health risks, Lead Stories reported.
The claim that "the vaccinated now account for a majority of COVID deaths" omits critical context from the Washington Post article it was taken from (archived here) and which has had its headline revised to "Covid is no longer mainly a pandemic of the unvaccinated. Here's why." at the time of writing. That article explains the shift in ratio as follows:
- At this point in the pandemic, a large majority of Americans have received at least their primary series of coronavirus vaccines, so it makes sense that vaccinated people are making up a greater share of fatalities.
- Individuals at greatest risk of dying from a coronavirus infection, such as the elderly, are also more likely to have received the shots.
- Vaccines lose potency against the virus over time and variants arise that are better able to resist the vaccines, so continued boosters are needed to continue to prevent illness and death.
It's still true that vaccinated groups are at a lower risk of dying from a covid-19 infection than the unvaccinated when the data is adjusted for age. An analysis released by the CDC last week underscores the protection that additional booster shots offer against severe illness and death as immunity wanes.
The summary of the most recent November 2022 report from the CDC says:
Deaths from COVID-19 have substantially decreased in the United States in recent months. This is likely due to high levels of population immunity, either through vaccination or prior infection, as well as improvements in early treatment for patients at risk for severe disease.
The findings also confirm once again that older populations -- the group that has been considered one of the most vulnerable since the beginning of the pandemic -- are still at a higher risk of death due to the infection:
During April-September 2022, the proportion of COVID-19-related deaths accounted for by adults aged ≥85 years increased to ~40% despite accounting for <2% of the U.S. population.
As for Anthony Fauci's resignation, it's a planned event, not a sudden "exit" related to any of the recent COVID statistics. In April 2022, he told CBS that he planned to do it "when we get this [the pandemic] under better control." On August 22, 2022, Fauci published a statement announcing that he would step down from the positions of Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), chief of the NIAID Laboratory of Immunoregulation and chief medical advisor to President Joe Biden in three months. On November 22, 2022, Fauci attended the final White House briefing. Now 81, Fauci served under seven White House administrations.
Other Lead Stories fact checks about COVID-19 can be found here.