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Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks during a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on May 26, 2021, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP/Silbiger) Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks during a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on May 26, 2021, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP/Silbiger)

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks during a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on May 26, 2021, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP/Silbiger)

Bill McCarthy
By Bill McCarthy July 6, 2021

Fauci’s ‘two Americas’ comment on COVID-19 vaccination rates taken out of context

If Your Time is short

  • Dr. Anthony Fauci was asked in an interview about the possibility that the delta variant of the coronavirus could spark new outbreaks in states with lower vaccination rates. 

  • Fauci said he is concerned that the states that have administered the fewest will be hit harder by the new variant and any resulting outbreaks than more heavily vaccinated states. He said the discrepancy could look “almost like it's going to be two Americas.”

Some social media users took Dr. Anthony Fauci’s words out of context in order to tap into fears about differential treatment for those who get the COVID-19 vaccines and those who opt out.

"Fauci says there will be 'two Americas': One for vaccinated, one for unvaccinated," said one June 30 Instagram post liked thousands of times, which shows a screenshot of a tweet. 

"Why isn’t this clown in jail?" the Instagram user added in a caption.

The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

The comment in question came when Fauci, President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser on COVID-19, appeared on CNN June 29. The full transcript of his interview with CNN’s Don Lemon shows that he was responding to a question about the more infectious delta variant of the coronavirus.

Lemon asked about the possibility that the variant could drive new outbreaks in the states that have administered the fewest COVID-19 vaccines. In response, Fauci said he is concerned those states will be hit harder than states with higher vaccination uptakes.  

Here’s the full exchange, in context and with Fauci’s "two Americas" remark in bold:

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Lemon: "The president had wanted 70% of people to have some degree of vaccination, right, a first or second dose. So my question is, the U.S., we're going to fall short of President Biden's goal of vaccinating 70% of adults with at least one dose by July 4, largely because of states like Alabama, Arkansas, my home state of Louisiana, Mississippi, Wyoming. They have less than 35% of the population fully vaccinated. The former FDA commissioner, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, is concerned that there will be very dense outbreaks in these areas. What do you think, Dr. Fauci?"

Fauci: "I agree with Dr. Gottlieb. That is something that we are very concerned about. When you have such a low level of vaccination superimposed upon a variant that has a high degree of efficiency of spread, what you are going to see among undervaccinated regions — be they states, cities or counties — you are going to see these individual types of blips. It's almost like it's going to be two Americas. You're going to have areas where the vaccine rate is high, where more than 70% of the population has received at least one dose. When you compare that with areas where you may have 35% of the people vaccinated, you clearly have a high risk of seeing these spikes in those selected areas. The thing that's so frustrating about this, Don, is that this is entirely avoidable, entirely preventable. If you are vaccinated, you diminish dramatically your risk of getting infected, and even more dramatically your risk of getting seriously ill. If you are not vaccinated, you are at considerable risk."

As of July 4, 55% of the U.S. population had gotten at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and 47% was fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Among adults, 67% had received one dose and 58% were fully vaccinated.

Some states are far behind others when it comes to vaccination rates, however. Mississippi, for example, has fully vaccinated about 38% of adults, according to the New York Times. Some other states like Vermont and Massachusetts have over 70% of residents fully vaccinated.

In a recent poll conducted by the Washington Post and ABC News, 74% of people who have not been vaccinated said they definitely or probably won’t get a shot.

Our ruling

An Instagram post said, "Fauci says there will be ‘two Americas’: One for vaccinated; one for unvaccinated."

The post shows a screenshot of a tweet and is based on comments Fauci made in an interview with CNN. But the full context shows that Fauci was answering a question about state vaccination disparities, and predicting that some of the states with low rates could experience more serious case outbreaks due to the delta variant.

The Instagram post contains an element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression. We rate it Mostly False.

Our Sources

Tweet, June 30, 2021 

Instagram post, June 30, 2021 

The New York Times, "See How Vaccinations Are Going in Your County and State," accessed July 6, 2021

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "COVID-19 Vaccinations in the United States," accessed July 6, 2021

The Washington Post, "June 27-30, 2021, Washington Post-ABC News poll," July 4, 2021

USA Today, "Fact check: Fauci warns of COVID-19 rise because of low vaccinations, not creation of 'two Americas,'" July 2, 2021

CNN, "Don Lemon Tonight," June 29, 2021

CNN, "Fauci on vaccination rates: It's almost like there's two Americas," June 29, 2021

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More by Bill McCarthy

Fauci’s ‘two Americas’ comment on COVID-19 vaccination rates taken out of context

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