Press Secretary Jen Psaki Responds to Fox News Reporter's Question About 'Pandemic of the Unvaccinated'

“You are 17 times more likely to go to the hospital if you’re not vaccinated, 20 times more likely to die,” Psaki told Fox News' Peter Doocy, citing government statistics

Jen Psaki
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki and Fox News White House correspondent Peter Doocy faced off once again during a recent press briefing.

This time the topic was President Joe Biden's warnings that the continued spread of COVID-19 in the U.S. amounts to a "pandemic of the unvaccinated."

"I understand the science says that vaccines prevent death. But I'm triple-vaxxed, still got COVID. You're triple-vaxxed, still got COVID," Doocy said to Psaki, referring to his own recent breakthrough case of the virus and to Psaki's bout with the illness, which kept her home in her slippers with only "mild" symptoms in October.

"Why is the president still referring to this as a pandemic of the unvaccinated?" Doocy asked.

Psaki responded by noting that while vaccinations do not always prevent infection, they provide robust protection from serious sickness.

"I had been triple vaxxed," she said of receiving two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine and a booster shot. "I had minor symptoms. There's a huge difference between that and being unvaccinated. You are 17 times more likely to go to the hospital if you're not vaccinated, 20 times more likely to die."

Psaki was citing statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Those are significant, serious statistics," she continued. "So yes, the impact for people who are unvaccinated is far more dire than those who are vaccinated."

But Doocy, who returned to the White House briefing room this week after recovering from COVID, pushed his line of questioning. "Will the president update his language at some time to be more reflective of the fact that people who are triple vaccinated are catching and spreading COVID?" he asked.

"The president has said — as have we, a number of times — that there will be breakthrough cases," Psaki told him. "There will be people who get COVID here, at different media organizations, at companies around the world, around the country who have been vaccinated. But there is a significant difference between being hospitalized or dying, and being vaccinated with more mild symptoms."

Jen Psaki
Jen Psaki. Kevin Dietsch/Getty

Later in the briefing, another reporter asked about the president saying that there is a "new normal" in the U.S. in its fight against COVID-19 as the highly transmissible omicron variant spreads quickly, infecting even those like Doocy and Psaki who are fully vaccinated.

"When he mentioned the 'new normal,' was he moving away from his campaign pledge of shutting down the virus or changing the messaging at all about COVID-19?" the reporter asked.

"What he's referring to is the fact that … we're in a different place than we were a year ago," Psaki replied. "More than 200 million Americans are vaccinated, and more than 71 percent are fully vaccinated. More than 80 percent, or a little higher than that, have had a first dose. We have a range of tools at our disposal, including antivirals and other treatments. So, we're going to continue to expand that, but we are in a different place than we were a year ago."

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