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Green Bay Packers' Aaron Rodgers looks up during the second half of an NFC divisional playoff NFL football game against the San Francisco 49ers Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022. The 49ers won 13-10 to advance to the NFC Championship game. (AP) Green Bay Packers' Aaron Rodgers looks up during the second half of an NFC divisional playoff NFL football game against the San Francisco 49ers Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022. The 49ers won 13-10 to advance to the NFC Championship game. (AP)

Green Bay Packers' Aaron Rodgers looks up during the second half of an NFC divisional playoff NFL football game against the San Francisco 49ers Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022. The 49ers won 13-10 to advance to the NFC Championship game. (AP)

Samantha Putterman
By Samantha Putterman January 24, 2022

Aaron Rodgers repeats debunked CDC data on COVID-19 deaths and comorbidities

If Your Time is short

  • The CDC didn’t find that 75% of COVID-19 deaths occurred in individuals who had at least four other illnesses or diseases, known as comorbidities. The figure is based on a study of 1.2 million fully vaccinated people that found around 78% of deaths in the group occurred in people with four or more other illnesses, bolstering the argument that vaccines work.

  • The claim started circulating in mid-January after an edited clip of an ABC "Good Morning America” interview with CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky cut off part of her quote, omitting the context that the study involved only vaccinated people. 

NFL quarterback Aaron Rodgers is in the headlines again, not only because his Green Bay Packers lost their divisional playoff game to the San Francisco 49ers on Jan. 22, but also because he’s making more false claims about the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Rodgers, who says he is unvaccinated, recently went on an anti-vaccine tirade in an interview with ESPN, criticizing President Joe Biden and his "fake White House."

At one point, Rodgers brought up the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to claim that officials were sending mixed messages about the pandemic, saying:

"Then you have the CDC, which, how do you even trust them, but then they come out and talk about 75% of the COVID deaths have at least four comorbidities. And you still have this fake White House set saying that this is the pandemic of the unvaccinated, that's not helping the conversation."

Rodgers — who made false statements about the pandemic in November — has his facts wrong again.

The CDC didn’t find that 75% of COVID-19 deaths occurred in individuals who had at least four other illnesses or diseases, known as comorbidities. The figure is based on a study of 1.2 million fully vaccinated people that found around 78% of deaths in the group occurred in people with multiple other illnesses, bolstering the argument that vaccines work.

The claim, which PolitiFact and others have debunked, started circulating in mid-January after ABC News released a shortened version of a "Good Morning America" interview with CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky.

The clip showed Walensky responding to a question from White House correspondent Cecilia Vega about how a recent CDC study seemed to show vaccines working to prevent severe illness. But the clip cut off the beginning of her response in which it was clear that she was referring to a study of only vaccinated people.  

Her full response:

"A really important study — if I may just summarize it — a study of 1.2 million people who were vaccinated between December and October and demonstrated that severe disease occurred in about 0.015% of the people who receive their primary series. And death in 0.003% of those people. 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. And yes, really encouraging news in the context of omicron. This means not only just to get your primary series, but to get your booster series. And yes, we’re really encouraged by these results."

The study involved just over 1.2 million people who completed their primary vaccination series — two shots for mRNA vaccines — from December 2020 through October 2021. It found that severe COVID-19-associated outcomes or death were rare among the group: 36 died of COVID-19. 

Risk factors included being over 65 years old or having a suppressed immune system. All people who experienced severe disease had at least one risk factor, the report said, and 28 of the people who died, or 78%, had at least four.

Our ruling

Rodgers claimed that the CDC said that 75% of COVID-19 deaths involved people who had four or more comorbidities.

This misrepresents the CDC’s findings. The figure is based on a study involving fully vaccinated individuals that found over 75% of deaths in that group occurred in people who had multiple other diseases and conditions. The statistic was cited by medical officials as evidence that the vaccines were effective in preventing severe disease.

We rate his claim False.

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More by Samantha Putterman

Aaron Rodgers repeats debunked CDC data on COVID-19 deaths and comorbidities

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