US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Dr. Rochelle Walensky testifies during a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee hearing in Washington, DC on May 19, 2021 ( POOL / Greg Nash)

US health agency did not say Covid-19 vaccines are 'failing'

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An online article claims the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said Covid-19 vaccines are "failing" and immunized people can be "super-spreaders" of the disease. This is false; the article misrepresents remarks by CDC director Rochelle Walensky, and the agency says she did not state that vaccinated people are more contagious.

"CDC confesses: Vaccines are failing, and the vaxxed can be super-spreaders," says the headline of a July 29, 2021 article  published by Natural News, a website that was banned by Facebook. The claim also spread as a screenshot on Instagram.

Walensky "publicly stated that vaccines are failing, and that vaccinated people may now carry higher viral loads than unvaccinated people, contributing to the spread of Covid," the article says.

Screenshot of an Instagram post taken on August 3, 2021

As evidence, the Natural News article links to another of its stories, which links to a Business Insider article that quoted Walensky speaking during a July 27 phone briefing.

During the call, she said information indicates that "in rare occasions, some vaccinated people infected with the Delta variant after vaccination may be contagious and spread the virus to others," and recommended that individuals who have received the shots wear a mask to slow its spread.

At no point during the call did Walensky question the efficacy of vaccines or say that vaccinated individuals could carry a higher viral load, and she in fact reaffirmed the importance of vaccination.

"We continue to strongly encourage everyone to get vaccinated. Getting vaccinated continues to prevent severe illness, hospitalization and death, even with Delta. It also helps to reduce the spread of the virus in our communities," she said.

"Vaccinated individuals continue to represent a very small amount of the transmission occurring around the country," Walensky added.

CDC spokeswoman Kristen Nordlund also told AFP that "Dr Walensky didn't make any comments last week that people who are vaccinated against Covid-19 are more contagious than people who are unvaccinated."

On July 30, Walensky said in a statement that the Delta variant of Sars-CoV-2 -- the virus that causes Covid-19 -- "resulted in similarly high... viral loads in vaccinated and unvaccinated people," but not higher viral loads.