Fact check roundup: What's true and what's false about the Russian invasion of Ukraine
False and misleading info about the Russian invasion of Ukraine has spread rapidly on social media. Here's a roundup of USA TODAY's fact checks.Here’s a roundup of claims related to the Ukraine-Russia conflict analyzed by the USA TODAY Fact Check team:
The claim: Fauci said, “The most potent vaccination is getting infected yourself”
More than two years after COVID-19 was first detected, errant attempts to compare the virus to the flu continue to spread on social media.
That happened again recently when Facebook users resurfaced a video of Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, answering a question about the influenza outbreak in 2004. An April 1 post of the video from one Facebook user was shared nearly 900 times in less than a week.
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In the clip from Fauci's October 2004 appearance on C-SPAN, he answered a caller's question and in part of the response said, "The most potent vaccination is getting infected yourself."
The Facebook post attempted to compare this approach to the COVID-19 pandemic, in which Fauci and other leaders and experts are pushing for vaccinations.
"Check out this clip of Dr. Fauci in 2004 talking about the STRENGTH of Natural Immunity," the post said. "Fast forward 18 years, what happened to this “'science?!'”
The clip was posted by multiple accounts and accrued thousands of shares.
But Facebook users are taking this clip of Fauci out of context. He is answering a caller's specific question on her flu diagnosis, he is not speaking about COVID-19. Experts say it's not reasonable to apply the same logic to both illnesses given the vast difference in transmissibility and lethality.
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USA TODAY reached out to the user who shared the claim for comment.
Fauci was talking about the flu shot, and in a specific case
The clip of Fauci came from an Oct. 11, 2004, appearance on C-SPAN's Washington Journal, in which he was discussing the flu vaccine.
That year there was a flu vaccine shortage, after the world's second-leading supplier of the flu vaccine, The Chiron Corp., saw their company license suspended for problems at a manufacturing plant. This cut America's supply of flu vaccine almost in half and led leaders in public health to recommend healthy Americans defer getting a flu shot so high risk, elderly and young individuals could have access to the shots.
During the nearly 50-minute program, callers from around the country asked Fauci a number of questions about the vaccine shortage and that year's flu season.
Fauci concedes its up to individuals to deal with pandemic
Fauci, speaking to Jonathan Karl on ABC's this week, was asked about an op-ed that said that we will likely have to accept at some point that Covid infections will keep occurring. Karl asked Fauci if we've reached the point where we 'accept there is going to be a risk' and get back to a new normal. 'There will be - and we've said this many times even in our own discussions between you and I, that there will be a level of infection,' Fauci said. 'This is not going to be eradicated and it's not going to be eliminated.
A 67-year-old woman from Minnesota called into the program to ask Fauci about her current 14-day case of the flu. She said that in the past when she got the flu vaccine she would experience flu symptoms for weeks, but when she didn't get the vaccine she would only get the flu once during the winter season.
Fauci suggested to the Minnesota caller that she may have an allergy to a component of the vaccine.
The C-SPAN host then turned to Fauci and asked him, "She's had the flu for 14 days, should she get the flu shot?"
Fauci's response is where the viral video users have been sharing begins.
"Well no, if she got the flu for 14 days, she's as protected as anybody can be, cause the best vaccination is to get infected yourself," Fauci said. "If she really has the flu, she definitely doesn't need a flu vaccine."
The interviewer asks again, "She should not get it again?" and Fauci responds, "She doesn't need it – it's the most potent vaccination is getting infected yourself."
Of course, COVID-19 didn't exist at that time, and it presents an array of threats that the flu does not.
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The death rate of COVID-19 is much higher than the flu. The World Health Organization estimates that at least 290,000 to 650,000 people die of flu-related causes every year worldwide. The mortality rate of COVID-19 is thought to be up to 10 times higher than most strains of the flu, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.
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The CDC has said that compared to the flu, COVID-19 can cause more serious illnesses in some people. With COVID-19, people can also take longer to show symptoms, and they can remain contagious for longer periods of time than with the flu.
COVID-19 vaccines offer more consistent and safer protection than natural immunity
Using the Fauci clip to push for natural immunity instead of vaccines – as many online are doing – ignores several critical points.
As noted, the infection that yields natural immunity is much more likely to lead to death for COVID-19 compared to the flu.
And the caller in the 2004 clip was already infected, so the question was about whether she should be vaccinated at that point. That's a very different question than whether someone who is not yet infected should get vaccinated or await an infection and the resulting natural immunity.
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A CDC study from August 2021 confirmed that vaccination offers higher protection than previous COVID-19 infection.
“This study shows you are twice as likely to get infected again if you are unvaccinated," CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in a statement.
That study exhibits why Fauci's 2004 influenza vaccine comment cannot be compared to what experts have said about natural immunity and COVID-19. Vaccines for COVID-19 offer more consistent and safer protection than natural immunity.
A study from April 2021 found that people who received two doses of shots from Pfizer or Moderna had antibody levels “up to 10 times” higher than those of a natural infection.
While COVID-19 immunity provided by vaccine and prior infection are both high, neither offers 100% protection. The vaccine, however, offers more consistent protection against COVID-19, the CDC said.
The level of immunity gained after a COVID-19 infection also varies widely, which experts say leaves some people with minimal natural immunity.
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“Natural immunity tends to be strong, yes,” Shane Crotty, a professor and vaccine researcher at La Jolla Institue for Immunology, previously told USA TODAY. “The reason scientists and public health officials have been more cautious about COVID-19 is because of this big range (of immunity levels) that we’ve seen for COVID-19 in people, which seems different than some other infections.”
Our rating: Missing context
Based on our research, we rate MISSING CONTEXT the claim that Fauci said, "The most potent vaccination is getting infected yourself" because without additional information it is misleading. This clip of Fauci answering a caller's specific question about her flu diagnosis had nothing to do with COVID-19, which didn't exist at the time and is far more deadly and transmissible.
The Marshall plan: Senator proposes 'Fauci Act' for financial records
Senator Marshall said he would propose a bill which would require the Office of Government Ethics (OGE) to provide the financial records for government officials whose information is not already public. The legislation, titled the Financial Accountability for Uniquely Compensated Individuals (FAUCI) Act, came after Marshall and Fauci had a heated back-and-forth during which the doctor called the senator a 'moron'.
Our fact-check sources:
Washington Journal C-SPAN, Oct. 11, 2004, Influenza Vaccine
NPR, Oct. 6, 2004, U.S. Faces Flu Vaccine Shortage
CDC, accessed April 7, Similarities and Differences between Flu and COVID-19
Johns Hopkins Medicine, Feb. 23, COVID-19 vs. The Flu
World Health Organization, accessed April 7, Global Influenza Programme
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Aug. 6, 2021, New CDC Study: Vaccination Offers Higher Protection than Previous COVID-19 Infection
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Oct. 29, 2021, Science Brief: SARS-CoV-2 Infection-induced and Vaccine-induced Immunity
Shane Crotty, June 10, 2021, Phone Interview with USA TODAY
Johns Hopkins Medicine, Nov. 23, 2021, COVID Natural Immunity: What You Need to Know
bioRxic, April 20, 2021, Distinct SARS-CoV-2 Antibody Responses Elicited by Natural Infection and mRNA Vaccination
USA TODAY, June 21, 2021, Fact check: COVID-19 vaccines provide safer, more consistent immunity than infection
Contributing: Daniel Funke
Thank you for supporting our journalism. You can subscribe to our print edition, ad-free app or electronic newspaper replica here.
Our fact-check work is supported in part by a grant from Facebook.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., speaks during her weekly news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 31, 2022. Pelosi has tested positive for COVID-19 on April 7, 2022, her spokesman says.
President Joe Biden looks to former President Barack Obama after signing an executive order during and event about the Affordable Care Act, in the East Room of the White House in Washington, April 5, 2022. Also seen are Vice President Kamala Harris, Rep. Angie Craig, D-Minn., House Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C., and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif. Pelosi has tested positive for COVID-19 and is currently asymptomatic, her spokesman Drew Hammill said in a tweet Thursday, April 7.
President Joe Biden kisses House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., during an Affordable Care Act event in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, April 5, 2022. At left is House Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C., and right is Rep. Susan Wild, D-Pa.
Senator Susan Collins of Maine, the first Republican to pledge support for Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson, leaves the chamber during a flurry of roll call votes, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, April 7, 2022. Collins later announced she had tested positive for COVID-19 and was experiencing mild symptoms.
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Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., emerges from the Senate chamber during roll call votes leading to the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson as the first Black woman on the high court, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, April 7, 2022. Later, Sen. Warnock tweeted "after a routine test, I tested positive for COVID-19."
Attorney General Merrick Garland has tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday, April 6, 2022. Attorney General Merrick Garland, center, accompanied by Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco, left, and FBI Director Christopher Wray, right, speaks at a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington, Wednesday, April 6, 2022, to discuss new and recent enforcement actions to disrupt and prosecute criminal Russian activity.
Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) tested positive for COVID-19 according to an announcement on April 7, 2022. Seen here, committee chairman Rep. Peter DeFazio speaks during a House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure hearing titled Finding the Right Frequency: 5G Deployment & Aviation Safety" on Capitol Hill February 3, 2022 in Washington, DC.
Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo tested positive for the virus on April 6 using an at-home antigen test. On April 5, 2022 , Raimondo spoke during the annual North Americas Building Trades Unions Legislative Conference at the Washington Hilton Hotel in Washington, DC.
Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Tex. announced on April 5, 2022 that he had tested positive for COVID-19. Seen here, Joaquin Castro attends The Latinx House Pre-Oscars Celebration on March 24, 2022 in West Hollywood, Calif.
Central Intelligence Agency Director William Burns, center, testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 8, 2022, during a House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence hearing on worldwide threats. He is flanked by Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines, left, and Defense Intelligence Agency Director Lt. Gen. Scott Berrier, right. Burns has tested positive for COVID-19, according to an agency statement Thursday, March 31.
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In this file photo taken on Feb. 14, 2022 White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre speaks during a briefing in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, DC. The White House's deputy spokeswoman said March 27, 2022 she has tested positive for Covid-19 following a trip to Europe with President Joe Biden that she only joined because the senior press secretary canceled after getting her own positive test.
Joe Biden's chief spokeswoman, Jen Psaki, said March 22, 2022, she has tested positive for Covid-19 but that the President was negative. In this file photo taken on Feb. 22, 2022, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki removes her protective mask while arriving to a briefing in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, DC.
Second gentleman Doug Emhoff listens as he meet with women entrepreneurs for a panel discussion while visiting Mi Casa Resource Center in Denver, on March 11, 2022. Emhoff tested positive for COVID-19, the White House said on March 15, 2022. Vice President Kamala Harris tested negative, but curtailed her schedule as a result of her husband’s positive test.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Fauci's 2004 comments on flu vaccine, natural immunity taken out of context
GOP senator plans to introduce FAUCI Act after clash at hearing .
Republican Sen. Roger Marshall (Kan.) plans to introduce a bill named after Anthony Fauci after he clashed with the nation's top infectious diseases expert at a Senate hearing this week. Marshall will be introducing the Financial Accountability for Uniquely Compensated Individuals (FAUCI) Act after he said Fauci's records were not readily accessible to the public, a spokesperson for the senator told The Hill. The FAUCI Act would require the Office of Government Ethics (OGE) website to provide the financial records of administration officials like Fauci and a list of those in the government whose financial records are not public.