The director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on June 23 falsely said that COVID-19 has been one of the five top causes of death for children since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director, offered the misinformation during a press briefing in which Biden administration officials promoted COVID-19 vaccination for children under 5, the age group for whom COVID-19 vaccines were just authorized and recommended.
“Since January 2020, we’ve lost 215 children—each six months to four years—to COVID-19,” Walensky said, correctly citing preliminary figures from the CDC.
But Walensky then falsely said that COVID-19 was one of the major causes of death for all children.
“To put that in perspective, during March 2020 through April 2022, COVID-19 was among the top five leading causes of death in every age group of children under the age of 19 and the number one infectious cause of death in children,” she said.
Walensky is the third CDC official or scientist to make the false statement this month.
The other two cited a preprint paper, or a study that has not been peer-reviewed, from British scientists.
But there were multiple issues with the study and the citations.
For one, the CDC officials used the cumulative number of deaths attributed to COVID-19 and compared it to annualized numbers for other causes of death.
That placed COVID-19 in the top 5, even though the study clearly shows that the annualized COVID-19 numbers would put COVID-19 as a cause of death no higher than sixth when compared to other causes of death.
Additionally, the study authors took annualized numbers for other causes from 2019.
Also, the authors included deaths among children who had COVID-19 but who did not have COVID-19 listed as the underlying cause on their death certificates, even though the authors said they only included children who had COVID-19 as the underlying cause, according to an Epoch Times review of the CDC database the authors drew from.
Seth Flaxman, a professor in Oxford University’s Department of Computer Science, and one of the authors, admitted on Twitter on June 19—after two CDC scientists and a third doctor who works with the government used the misleading statistics in meetings with government advisory panels—that the paper required an update.
“We have received some feedback and criticism along several dimensions. We are planning to update the preprint to take into account some of this feedback,” he said.
Flaxman did not respond to a query and the preprint website includes no indication that an update is pending.
The CDC and its officials did not respond to requests for comment, nor did Dr. Matthew Daley, who chairs the COVID-19 vaccines work group for a CDC advisory panel.
Kelley Krohnert, a Georgia resident who detected the issues and alerted Flaxman, told The Epoch Times via Twitter message that Walensky’s statement was frustrating.
“I’m so frustrated that this lie has just become accepted as truth at the highest levels,” she said.
Before Walensky spoke on Thursday, Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House’s COVID-19 response coordinator, and a purveyor of misinformation, warned about “misinformation about vaccines and about kids and COVID in this pandemic.”
“So let’s set the record straight, because the data here is actually quite clear: Kids are better protected if they are vaccinated. If they are vaccinated, they are far less likely to get seriously ill. They’re far less likely to end up in the hospital, far less likely to end up in the ICU,” he said.
The clinical trials on children under 5 were not able to measure the efficacy of the vaccines against severe illness because so few children from the vaccinated and the unvaccinated arms contracted severe cases of the disease.
In Pfizer’s trial, more vaccinated children experienced severe illness than unvaccinated children.
But U.S. regulators granted emergency authorization for the vaccines anyways, and the CDC then recommended the shots for virtually all children aged 6 months to 4 years.
“We all want to do what’s best for our children,” Walensky said. “And for the safest … protection against COVID-19, do go and get your child COVID-19 vaccinated.”