A top U.S. health official acknowledged on April 19 that people who have received a COVID-19 vaccine can transmit the disease to others.

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), made the unsupported claim in 2021 that people who had received a COVID-19 vaccine “do not carry the virus” and “do not get sick.”

“We’ve had an evolution of science and an evolution of the virus,” Walensky told a congressional committee in Washington, adding that the statement “is no longer correct with the Omicron subvariants that we have right now.”

The Biden appointee also doubled down on her initial claim.

“Was that statement correct?” Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-Ga.) asked.

“At the time it was,” Walensky responded. “It was a wildtype virus that we had, it was even before the Alpha variant, it was the initial wildtype variant, and all the data at the time suggested that people who were vaccinated, even if they got sick, couldn’t transmit the virus to anyone else.”

Asked for citations for the claim, Walensky’s press secretary Jason McDonald provided four studies, including two published by the CDC’s quasi-journal.

“None of the studies are randomised trials, and they all have various flaws. Irrespective of that they all show—what I think nobody can deny—that a proportion of vaccinated individuals get ill, and when ill they also have positive PCR tests as an indication that they will excrete virus,” Christine Stabell Benn, a health professor at the University of Southern Denmark, told The Epoch Times in an email. “Conclusion: vaccinated individuals can get ill and they can transmit.”

Dr. Tracy Hoeg, an epidemiologist based in California, also said the papers don’t support Walensky’s claim.

“They all report observed reductions but none of them found that ‘vaccinated people do not carry the virus, do not get sick,’” Hoeg told The Epoch Times in a Twitter message. “Are they kidding? Seems delusional to come to that conclusion from those article.”

Even in March 2021, Walensky’s claim drew criticism from scientists.

“What we know is the vaccines are very substantially effective against infection—there’s more and more data on that—but nothing is 100 percent,” John Moore, a virologist at Weill Cornell Medicine, told the New York Times back then.

“It’s possible that some people who are fully vaccinated could get COVID-19. The evidence isn’t clear whether they can spread the virus to others,” the CDC said at the time.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which authorized the vaccines, said when authorizing them that the clinical trials did not test transmission and has maintained that stance to the present day.

Just two weeks after Walensky’s initial statement, made during an appearance on MSNBC, the CDC said some 5,800 Americans had contracted COVID-19 despite being vaccinated, with 74 dying. The CDC later stopped counting so-called breakthrough infections as the numbers soared. Data has shown that vaccine protection wanes considerably after several months and starts low against the current Omicron subvariants, with some papers estimating vaccinated people are more likely to become infected over time.

Another Dubious Claim

Walensky was also questioned about a Cochrane Review of masks against influenza and COVID-19.

Researchers found that based on the current evidence, masks were not effective in reducing the spread of respiratory viruses.

Under pressure from outside groups, Cochrane editor-in-chief Karla Soares-Weiser said in March the review did not show that masks don’t work.

The authors said in their summary that “we are uncertain whether wearing masks or N95/P2 respirators helps to slow the spread of respiratory viruses based on the studies we assessed.” That wording “was open to misinterpretation, for which we apologize,” Soares-Weiser said, adding that “we are engaging with the review authors with the aim of updating the Plain Language Summary and abstract to make clear that the review looked at whether interventions to promote mask wearing help to slow the spread of respiratory viruses.”

“Cochrane is known as a gold standard,” Walensky said on Wednesday, “and I think it’s notable that the editor-in-chief of the Cochrane actually said that the summary of that review, she retracted the summary of that review and said it was an inaccurate summary.”

As of April 20, the review has not been updated, and no parts have been retracted.

“If it has not been changed yet, you may want to reach out to Cochrane,” McDonald told The Epoch Times.

Cochrane did not respond to a request for comment.

Tom Jefferson, the lead author of the review, told journalist Maryanne Demasi that Walensky’s retraction claim wasn’t true.

“Walensky is plain wrong. There has been no retraction of anything,” he said. “It’s worth reiterating that we are the copyright holders of the review, so we decide what goes in or out of the review and we will not change our review on the basis of what the media wants or what Walensky says.”