Harris County Public Health in Texas on Dec. 20 announced its first omicron-related COVID-19 death – the first omicron-linked death publicly reported in the U.S.
The day after the Harris County health department’s announcement, conservative commentator Liz Wheeler, who has nearly 600,000 followers on Twitter, tweeted, “Worth noting: the one person who has died of omicron in our country was fully vaccinated & boosted.” The post has been retweeted more than 3,300 times.
Was the first omicron death reported in the U.S. a person who was fully vaccinated and boosted?
No, the first omicron death reported in the U.S. was not a person who was fully vaccinated and boosted. Health officials say the man was unvaccinated.
WHAT WE FOUND
Harris County Public Health released some details about the person whose death was linked to the omicron variant. Those details directly contradict Wheeler’s claim.
“The death reported this afternoon was of a man between the ages of 50-60 years old who was unvaccinated and had been infected with COVID-19 previously,” Harris County Public Health said in a Dec. 20 news release. “The individual was at higher risk of severe complications from COVID-19 due to his unvaccinated status and had underlying health conditions.”
VERIFY reached out to the Texas Department of State Health Services to confirm the information released by Harris County Public Health. An official with the state’s health department confirmed the person was a man who was unvaccinated.
Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, the head of the county’s governing body, tweeted on Dec. 20 that the man who died was in his 50s, from the eastern portion of Harris County and was not vaccinated.
Hidalgo, as well as Harris County Public Health, urged people to get vaccinated to best protect themselves against the worst outcomes of COVID-19.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the patient’s family, and we extend our deepest sympathies,” Barbie Robinson, executive director of Harris County Public Health, said in a statement. “This is a reminder of the severity of COVID-19 and its variants. We urge all residents who qualify to get vaccinated and get their booster shot if they have not already.”
Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that as of Dec. 22, 65.6% of people eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccine have been fully vaccinated. In Harris County, which includes the city of Houston, 63.1% of people who are eligible to get vaccinated were fully vaccinated as of Dec. 21, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.
Research is ongoing to determine how effective COVID-19 vaccines are against the omicron variant.
During a briefing on Dec. 15, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), said early studies show the omicron variant “undoubtedly compromises the effects of a two-dose mRNA vaccine-induced antibodies and reduces the overall protection.” But, he said, the vaccines still provide “considerable protection” against severe COVID-19 and that booster shots work against omicron.
Pfizer said initial lab tests suggested a booster shot of its vaccine offered more protection against omicron than just two doses. Moderna said its booster increased antibodies 37-fold in a preliminary study.
More from VERIFY: Fact Sheet: COVID-19 omicron variant