Stand up for the facts!

Our only agenda is to publish the truth so you can be an informed participant in democracy.
We need your help.

More Info

I would like to contribute

Tom Kertscher
By Tom Kertscher May 18, 2021

No, Fauci and FDA head didn’t say 40-50% of CDC, FDA staff refusing COVID shots

If Your Time is short

  • Dr. Anthony Fauci and top officials from the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were asked at a Senate committee hearing what percentage of their employees have received COVID-19 vaccinations.

  • In their responses, none of the three officials said anything about employees who refused to be vaccinated.

Did two federal health officials say that up to half of the employees at two major federal health agencies have refused to receive a COVID-19 vaccine?

No. In a Senate hearing, they gave an estimate of the percentage of employees at their agencies who’ve gotten the shot, and it might be lower than you’d expect. 

But the officials made no statements about any employees refusing to be vaccinated.

Nonetheless, a widely shared Instagram post draws that incorrect conclusion, falsely attributes it to top officials and mixes up the agencies involved.

"NEW: About 40-50% of CDC, FDA employees are refusing the COVID-19 vaccine, according to Fauci, Marks," the Instagram post says.

The reference is to Dr. Anthony Fauci, the federal government’s leading epidemiologist, and Dr. Peter Marks, director of the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Biologics Evaluation.

The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

Senator asked the question

On May 11, during a Senate committee hearing on fighting COVID-19 — the same one where Fauci and Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky clashed over the origins of the virus — Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., questioned Fauci, Marks and Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about vaccination levels among employees of their agencies. 

The CDC and the FDA are key agencies involved in screening vaccines. Fauci heads the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which is part of a different agency, the National Institutes of Health.

In response to Burr’s question, Fauci said of NIAID: "I think it’s probably a little bit more than half, probably around 60%." Marks said "it’s probably in the same range" for FDA employees. Walensky didn’t give a percentage for CDC employees, saying they have the option to report their vaccination status but that "the federal government is not requiring it, so we do not know."

What the post says

The Instagram post from a few days later shows the first part of a now-deleted three-tweet thread from @Breaking911, the Twitter account for the Breaking911 news site, which is listed by Columbia Journalism Review as unreliable.

The second part of that thread showed a video clip of Burr asking his question.

The third part of the thread is another tweet from @Breaking911 that says: "CDC, FDA employees were in one of the first groups to be offered the vaccine. 50-60% percent of employees are vaccinated according to Fauci and Marks, meaning 50-40% of employees are refusing the vaccine."

But that’s not what it means. The officials’ answers about the vaccination levels do not mean that the rest refused to be vaccinated.

The percentages given by Fauci and Marks are in the range of the vaccination levels among the overall adult U.S. population.

As of May 17, 59.8% of U.S. adults have received at least one dose of the vaccine, and 47.4% are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.

Vaccinations continue around the country. As of May 12, the seven-day moving average was more than 1.62 million vaccinations per day in the U.S., according to the CDC. 

Our ruling

A widely shared Instagram post claimed: "About 40% to 50% of CDC, FDA employees are refusing the COVID-19 vaccine, according to" Anthony Fauci and FDA’s Peter Marks.

Fauci, Marks and the CDC’s Walensky were asked what percentage of their employees have received the COVID-19 vaccine. Fauci estimated 60% for his National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Marks said probably in the same range for the FDA, and Walensky didn’t give a percentage for the CDC. 

None of them said anything about employees who refuse to be vaccinated.

We rate the statement False.

Our Sources

Browse the Truth-O-Meter

More by Tom Kertscher

No, Fauci and FDA head didn’t say 40-50% of CDC, FDA staff refusing COVID shots

Support independent fact-checking.
Become a member!

In a world of wild talk and fake news, help us stand up for the facts.

Sign me up