The CDC didn’t say vaccinated people are more at risk of a new COVID variant than the unvaccinated



CLAIM: The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that a new COVID-19 variant is more contagious among vaccinated people than those who are unvaccinated.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. In a risk assessment summary published Aug. 23, the CDC wrote that the BA.2.86 variant may be more likely to infect people with existing immunity to COVID-19, either from vaccinations or prior infections, than previous variants. It did not say that vaccinated people are at a higher risk than the unvaccinated.

THE FACTS: Social media users have in recent days misrepresented the public health agency’s guidance on BA.2.86, after the new variant emerged in mid-August.

“BREAKING: CDC says new COVID variant is more contagious among vaccinated people than those unvaccinated,” reads a post shared on Instagram and X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.

As of Monday, one tweet that shared the post had received more than 15,000 likes and more than 7,500 shares.

But this is a distortion of the CDC’s current understanding of BA.2.86. The agency has not said that those who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 are more likely than unvaccinated people by the new variant. Rather, it said those who’ve been vaccinated or previously infected may be more susceptible than they were to prior variants.

“Based on what CDC knows now, the large number of mutations in this new variant raises concern that BA.2.86 may be more capable of causing infection in people who have previously had COVID-19 or who have received COVID-19 vaccines,” the agency said in a statement, bolding the word “or.”

Those making the false claim are misrepresenting the CDC’s Aug. 23 risk assessment for the variant, which said: “BA.2.86 may be more capable of causing infection in people who have previously had COVID-19 or who have received COVID-19 vaccines.” It elaborated near the end of the assessment that “the large number of mutations in this variant raises concerns of greater escape from existing immunity from vaccines and previous infections compared with other recent variants.”

In its statement, the agency said that it is still closely monitoring the variant but that it is “too soon to know the real-world impacts on immunity” and encouraged people to stay up-to-date on their COVID-19 vaccines.

As of Aug. 23, BA.2.86 had been reported in the U.S., U.K., Denmark, South Africa and Israel, according to the CDC.
This is part of AP’s effort to address widely shared misinformation, including work with outside companies and organizations to add factual context to misleading content that is circulating online. Learn more about fact-checking at AP.

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