By: Vivek J
September 6 2023
The CDC did not say that vaccinated people are more likely to get infected by the BA.2.86 coronavirus variant. The CDC report was misrepresented.
What is the claim?
Claims that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have given a public statement acknowledging that vaccinated people are more likely to get infected by the new BA.2.86 variant of coronavirus are circulating on social media. One such video on TikTok claimed, "This new variant is more likely to infect you if you have been vaccinated previously.” The claim arises from a misinterpretation of a risk assessment report published by the CDC on August 23, 2023. Archives of similar posts making such claims can be seen here, here, and here.
Similar videos can be seen on Rumble, a video platform that is known to host conspiracy theorists and allow videos related to pseudoscience. Dr. Robert Campbell, a known anti-vaxxer, has also made similar claims about supposed CDC’s admission that the new variant is more likely to infect the vaccinated. Logically Facts has previously debunked vaccine-related misinformation shared by Campbell.
Screenshot of the video by Dr. John Campbell on CDC’s Risk Assessment. (Source: Rumble.com)
However, the CDC’s report has been misrepresented to show that vaccinated people are more vulnerable to the newly detected coronavirus variant.
What did we find?
The CDC published a report titled “Risk Assessment Summary for SARS CoV-2 Sublineage BA.2.86” on August 23, 2023, and noted that a new variant of coronavirus named “BA.2.86” was detected in samples from people in Demark and Israel. The CDC also noted that this new variant had multiple genetic differences than the previous versions of SARS-CoV-2.
In the summary, the CDC speculated that the new variant “may be more capable” of infecting people previously infected with COVID-19 or vaccinated against COVID-19. Nowhere did the summary report state that vaccinated people are more likely to get infected with the new variant.
In an updated risk assessment dated August 30, 2023, the CDC stated, "Based on current information, existing tests used to detect and medications used to treat COVID-19 continue to be effective with this variant. Scientists are evaluating how previous immunity from vaccinations or past infections protect against this new variant.”
The updated risk assessment also noted, “There is currently no evidence that this variant is causing more severe illness. That assessment may change as additional scientific data are developed. CDC remains committed to releasing updates on trends and observations of this variant.”
According to a World Health Organization report, the earliest documented sample of the new BA.2.86 variant was dated July 24, 2023. With very little data available on this new variant, it would be too early to say if this variant would cause severe infection or evade immunity acquired through vaccines or infection from prior variants.
The CDC’s Risk Assessment Summary stated the possibility that the new BA.2.86 variant of coronavirus might infect people who were infected with previous variants or vaccinated against COVID-19. It did not state that the vaccinated are more susceptible to the new variant. Anti-vaxxers and conspiracy theorists are misrepresenting the CDC’s statement to discredit the vaccines and their efficacy.
The COVID-19 pandemic has given rise to a lot of potentially dangerous misinformation. For reliable advice on COVID-19, including symptoms, prevention, and available treatment, please refer to the World Health Organization or your national healthcare authority.