Psaki and Fox News reporter spar over Biden’s ‘pandemic of the unvaccinated’ comments: ‘You’re 17x more likely to go to the hospital if you’re not vaccinated, 20x more likely to die’

Jen Psaki
White House press secretary Jen Psaki. Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images
  • Jen Psaki sparred with a Fox News reporter over Biden’s argument that this is a “pandemic of the unvaccinated.”
  • Peter Doocy suggested the characterization is inaccurate because of the high level of breakthrough cases. 
  • Psaki pointed out that unvaccinated people are far more likely to be hospitalized or die if infected.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Monday clashed with a Fox News reporter over President Joe Biden’s argument that the ongoing COVID-19 crisis is a “pandemic of the unvaccinated.”

Fox News’ Peter Doocy, who returned to the White House briefing room on Monday after his own breakthrough bout of COVID-19, suggested that Biden’s characterization of the pandemic doesn’t take into account the high numbers of fully-vaccinated Americans who are contracting the virus. 

“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 told Psaki, referencing when the fully-vaccinated press secretary contracted the virus in October. “Why is the president still referring to this as a pandemic of the unvaccinated?”

Psaki stressed that unvaccinated people infected with COVID-19 are much more likely to be hospitalized or die than those who are vaccinated. 

“I had been triple-vaxxed,” Psaki said, meaning she’s gotten two vaccine shots and a booster. “I had minor symptoms. There’s a huge difference between that and being unvaccinated.”

Psaki went on, “You’re 17 times more likely to go to the hospital if you’re not vaccinated, 20 times more likely to die,” citing data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC also found that unvaccinated people are 10 times more likely to test positive for the virus than unvaccinated people, despite a surge in breakthrough cases. 

“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.”

Doocy kept pressing Psaki on Biden’s messaging.

“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 White House has made clear that vaccinated people can still test positive for COVID-19, otherwise known as breakthrough infections, Psaki responded, again reiterating the “significant difference” between getting COVID-19 for the unvaccinated and vaccinated.


Biden has repeatedly called the public health crisis a “pandemic of the unvaccinated” and pointed to the significantly worse health outcomes among unvaccinated people. COVID-19 vaccines have for months been widely available to Americans in most age groups, but about 15% of adults in the US are still unvaccinated, The New York Times reported late last month. 

Monday’s exchange comes as the US currently faces a surge in COVID-19 cases driven by the highly contagious Omicron variant. The daily average of COVID-19 hospitalizations for the week ending January 4 was 16,458, according to the CDC. The CDC recommends vaccination as the best way to prevent severe illness and death from the virus.