Editor’s note: This piece has been updated to reflect the fact that Walensky noted that over 75% of COVID-19 deaths among the vaccinated occurred in people who had comorbidities.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) director Dr. Rochelle Walensky noted Friday that the “overwhelming number of deaths” from COVID-19 among the vaccinated “occurred in people who had at least four comorbidities.”
“The overwhelming number of deaths, over 75%, occurred in people who had at least four comorbidities, so really these are people who were unwell to begin with,” Walensky said on ABC News’ “Good Morning America.”
Walesnky was discussing a study released Friday by the CDC, which found that 77.8% of vaccinated people who contracted COVID-19 and died because of it had four or more comorbidities.
Walensky’s comments highlight an at-times underreported notion regarding the pandemic – that those with certain medical conditions are at a higher risk of serious illness from COVID-19. While the CDC has noted this, the concept hasn’t been a focus of President Joe Biden’s messaging surrounding the virus. (RELATED: Setbacks, Inconsistencies Mount For CDC Under Walensky)
A report released by the World Obesity Federation in March found that COVID-19 death rates were ten times higher in countries with a largely overweight adult population, CNN reported at the time. The network was criticized in early January after pointing out that “losing weight can reduce” the “risk of much more severe disease and even death from Covid-19,” Fox News reported.
Despite Walensky noting the high amount of deaths from those with comorbidities, the U.S. has not made living a healthier lifestyle a main talking point of its COVID-19 campaign. Instead, Biden has focused on vaccines and boosters as a way out of the pandemic. (RELATED: CDC Shortens Isolation Rules For COVID-Positive Health Care Workers Amid Fear Of Understaffed Hospitals)
We must protect people with comorbidities from severe #COVID19. I went into medicine – HIV specifically – and public health to protect our most at-risk. CDC is taking steps to protect those at highest risk, incl. those w/ chronic health conditions, disabilities & older adults.
— Rochelle Walensky, MD, MPH (@CDCDirector) January 9, 2022
Walensky was criticized for her Friday comments after she added that it’s “really encouraging news in the context of Omicron,” Newsweek reported. The CDC director tweeted Sunday after the backlash, promising that she “went into medicine … and public health to protect our most at-risk.”