NFL quarterback Aaron Rodgers caused a stir on social media after he tested positive for COVID-19 on Nov. 3 and went to a sports talk show two days later to discuss it.
Rodgers started sharing some untruths about vaccines during a performance on The Pat McAfee Show Nov 5 – and one statement in particular made us do the double fact check of the discount.
“This idea that it’s a pandemic of unvaccinated people, it’s just a total lie,” Rodgers said, pointing out that he knew many vaccinated people who had become sick with the virus. “If the vaccine is so great, how come people are still getting COVID and spreading COVID and sadly dying from COVID?”
Green Bay Packer, 37, revealed that he chose an alternative treatment for COVID-19 rather than getting vaccinated because he is allergic to an ingredient in the mRNA vaccines, and was hesitant about the safety of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine after its use was briefly discontinued in April due to concerns about blood clots.
Vaccinated people can get COVID-19, but unvaccinated people are much more likely to contract and spread the virus, and are at greater risk of hospitalization or death. This is what the evidence shows.
The timeline of COVID-19
First, it’s important to note that the coronavirus spread widely in the spring and fall of 2020, before vaccines were widely available — in other words, the virus took root among unvaccinated people. By the time the first COVID-19 vaccine was approved and distributed for emergency use in the United States in December 2020, the total number of cases in the country had risen to more than 17.2 million, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
The delta variant began to spread rapidly in the US in mid-2021, at a time when vaccination rates were on the rise. But in an earlier fact check, Dr. Daniel B. Fagbuyi, emergency room physician and former Obama appointee with the National Biodefense Science Board, made a claim that vaccinated people were the ones responsible for the spread of the COVID-19 strains.
“If that were the case, based on all the other (COVID-19) cases, we wouldn’t have seen all these variants before we got the vaccines,” Fagbuyi said.
The alpha, beta and gamma variants were first found in unvaccinated populations. and dr. Amesh Adalja, senior scientist at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, pointed out that the delta variant was first discovered in India, which was largely unvaccinated at the time.
The risks of contracting COVID-19 now
Now that the vaccines are available, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found in a recent study that unvaccinated participants who had previously had an infection were more than five times more likely to get COVID-19 than fully vaccinated participants, and other research showed that unvaccinated people are more than 10 times more likely to be hospitalized or die from COVID-19.
Vaccinated people can still get COVID-19 — no vaccine is perfect — but they’re getting it at a much slower rate. A New York Times analysis found that a vaccinated American’s chance of getting a breakthrough case of COVID-19 is 1 in 5,000 per day. We reported in September that it could be even lower — according to a calculation of CDC data, the odds were about 1 in 5,000 per week, or about 1 in 35,000 per day.
Another answer to Rodgers’ question about breakthrough infections: Some vaccinated people may still be at risk of developing severe cases of COVID-19 because they have an immune system deficiency that can limit the effectiveness of the vaccines. Less than 3 percent of Americans are immunocompromised, and the CDC says they “may not build the same level of immunity to 2-dose vaccine series as compared to people who are not immunocompromised.” The CDC recommends that people with moderate to severe immunodeficiency receive a third dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine.
The recent death of General Colin Powell was one such case. Powell had been fully vaccinated with both doses of the Pfizer vaccine, but was 84 years old and had battled Parkinson’s disease and multiple myeloma. He got sick before he could get his third dose.
We reached out to Rodgers through the Green Bay Packers, but a spokesperson for the team told PolitiFact that Rodgers is still on the reserve list as he recovers from COVID-19 and is not yet available to speak to the media.
Rodgers claimed the idea that the pandemic is one of the unvaccinated is a “total lie.”
The virus started and spread among unvaccinated people before vaccines were developed and rolled out, and COVID-19 variants such as the delta variant were first discovered among unvaccinated populations.
Vaccinated people can contract COVID-19, but at much lower rates than unvaccinated people. They are even less likely to be hospitalized or die from the virus.
Less than 3 percent of people in the US have an immune system deficiency, which puts them at greater risk of contracting COVID-19. The CDC recommends that people with moderate to severe immunodeficiencies receive a third dose of the vaccine to build immunity.
We rate Rodgers’ claim as false.
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How to get vaccinated?
The COVID-19 vaccine for children 5 years and older and booster shots for eligible recipients are administered at doctors’ offices, clinics, pharmacies, supermarkets and public vaccination sites. Many make it possible to book appointments online. Here’s how to find a branch near you:
Find a location: To find vaccination sites in your zip code, visit vaccines.gov.
More help: Call the National COVID-19 Vaccination Helpline.
Telephone: 800-232-0233. Help is available in English, Spanish and other languages.
Disabled information and access line: Call 888-677-1199 or email [email protected]
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CHILDREN AND VACCINES: Do you have questions about vaccinating your child? Here are some answers.
BOOSTER SHOTS: Not sure which COVID booster to get? This guide will help.
PROTECTING SENIORS: This way seniors can be protected against the virus.
COVID AND THE FLU: Get a flu shot and the COVID vaccine to prevent ‘twin disease’.
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