On July 27, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) held a press briefing in which the agency announced it had reversed its previous mask recommendations in response to an uptick in nationwide COVID-19 infections and the spread of the delta variant.
Following the announcement, the pseudoscience conspiracy theory website Natural News reported on July 29 that the health agency not only changed its stance of wearing masks but that it had also stated that vaccines were “failing” and that vaccinated individuals were considered “superspreaders.” Natural News quoted a “confession” it claimed CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky publicly stated, describing vaccines as failing and that “vaccinated people may now carry higher viral loads than unvaccinated people”:
In making these public statements, the CDC just admitted that the entire promise that vaccinated people were immune to covid and couldn’t spread it to others just unraveled. Immediately, the CDC demanded that the entire nation reverts to neanderthal mask mandates, even for those who have been “fully vaccinated.”
Similar claims were also made by radio personality Stew Peters on the video platform Rumble, in an interview summarized on his Rumble page as follows: "Dr. Jane Ruby joined Stew Peters to reveal that the "Delta Variant" may not be the killer, but that the 'vaccines' are likely causing the trauma being treated at hospitals."
Having encountered these allegations, Snopes readers sent us the following screenshots to determine whether certain claims made by the reporters were accurate:
Snopes listened to the 28-minute press briefing in its entirety and found that there was no truth to the above-quoted claims made by Natural News. (The audio recording is available via the CDC website. We have also listed the full statement issued by CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky at the bottom of this article.)
The CDC did not say that vaccines were failing. In fact, the agency stated that had more Americans been vaccinated, there would not be a surge in cases.
“As CDC has recommended for months, unvaccinated individuals should get vaccinated and continue masking until they are fully vaccinated in areas with substantial and high transmission,” said Walensky.
At no point during the press briefing did Walensky say that vaccinated individuals were “superspreaders.” Vaccinated individuals, she said, continued to represent a very small amount of transmission occurring throughout the nation.
“We continue to estimate that the risk of a breakthrough infection with symptoms upon exposure to the Delta variant is reduced by sevenfold. The reduction is 20-fold for hospitalizations and death,” she added.
As such, we rate this claim “False.”
However, it is important to note that scientific evidence suggests that vaccinated people can carry as much virus as others in what has become known as so-called breakthrough infections, particularly in response to infection by the more dangerous delta variant. Walensky outlined these concerns and the CDC’s response to them in her introductory statement, which Snopes transcribed below:
As you have heard from me previously, this pandemic continues to pose a serious threat to the health of all Americans. I have said throughout my tenure at CDC that our guidance and recommendations will follow the science in our efforts to protect the health of as many Americans as possible and today we have new science related with adults a variant that requires us to update the guidance regarding what you can do when you are fully vaccinated.
Delta variant is showing everyday its willingness to outsmart us and to be an opportunist in areas where we have not shown a fortified response against it. This week our data shows that delta remains the predominant variant circulating in the United States. Eight out of ten sequence samples contain the delta variant.
In recent days, I have seen new scientific data from recent outbreak investigations showing that the delta variant behaves uniquely differently from past strains of the virus that causes COVID-19. Information on the delta variant from several states and other countries indicates that in rare occasions, some vaccinated people infected with a delta variant after vaccination may be contagious and spread the virus to others. This new science is worrisome and unfortunately warrants an update to our recommendations.
First, 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 reduce the spread of the virus in our communities. Vaccinated individuals continue to represent a very small amount of transmission occurring around the country. We continue to estimate that the risk of a breakthrough infection with symptoms upon exposure to the delta variant is reduced by sevenfold. The reduction is 20-fold for hospitalizations and death.
As CDC has recommended for months, unvaccinated individuals should get vaccinated and continue masking until they are fully vaccinated in areas with substantial and high transmission.
CDC recommends fully vaccinated people wear masks in public indoor settings to help prevent the spread of the delta variant and protect others. This includes school.
CDC recommends that everyone in K through 12 schools wear a mask indoors, including teachers, staff, students, and visitors regardless of vaccination status. Children should return to full time in person learning in the fall with proper prevention strategies in place.
Finally, CDC recommends community leaders encourage vaccination and universal masking to prevent further outbreaks in areas of substantial and high transmission with the delta variant. Vaccinating more Americans now is more urgent than ever. The highest spread of cases and severe outcomes is happening in places with low vaccination rates and among unvaccinated people.
This moment and, most importantly, the associated illness, suffering and death could have been avoided with higher vaccination coverage in this country. COVID-19 continues to present many challenges and has exacted a tremendous toll on our nation. We continue to follow the signs closely and update the guidance should the science shift again. We must take every step we can to stop the delta variant and end this pandemic.