Sharyl Attkisson, a longtime anti-vaccine conspiracy theorist and the host of a weekly Sinclair Broadcast Group program, has for months pushed claims that acquiring COVID-19 via infection and surviving it provides better immunity than vaccination for the disease. But a Sinclair anchor recently called such claims “misinformation,” citing a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showing that unvaccinated COVID-19 survivors were twice as likely to be reinfected as those who were vaccinated -- though there was no mention that such misinformation had repeatedly aired on Attkisson’s Sinclair program.
On August 6, the CDC released the results of a study among people in Kentucky who were previously infected with COVID-19, which showed that “unvaccinated individuals are more than twice as likely to be reinfected with COVID-19 than those who were fully vaccinated after initially contracting the virus”:
These data further indicate that COVID-19 vaccines offer better protection than natural immunity alone and that vaccines, even after prior infection, help prevent reinfections.
“If you have had COVID-19 before, please still get vaccinated,” said CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky. “This study shows you are twice as likely to get infected again if you are unvaccinated. Getting the vaccine is the best way to protect yourself and others around you, especially as the more contagious Delta variant spreads around the country.”
The study of hundreds of Kentucky residents with previous infections through June 2021 found that those who were unvaccinated had 2.34 times the odds of reinfection compared with those who were fully vaccinated. The findings suggest that among people who have had COVID-19 previously, getting fully vaccinated provides additional protection against reinfection.
That same day, Cayle Thompson, a breaking news anchor for Sinclair’s morning news program The National Desk, which airs on 68 Sinclair-owned or -operated TV stations, teased coverage of the new report. He said: “Doctors say that they are still battling a lot of misinformation -- one of them, the belief that if you have had COVID, you are immune,” adding that the CDC’s study “will prove that is not the case.”
Unfortunately, Attkisson has already broadcast this misinformation on Sinclair’s TV stations around the country and repeatedly shared the falsehood on her personal website and social media accounts.
In late January, Attkisson produced a segment on her Sinclair program Full Measure pushing the claim from an anti-masking Republican congressman that vaccines don’t help people previously infected with COVID-19, going so far as to call the idea that the vaccines do help such people “misinformation.” The segment, which attacked the CDC for recommending people who had been previously infected with COVID-19 get vaccinated, also claimed Pfizer’s review of its vaccine trial didn’t show the vaccine was effective for such people. However, Pfizer’s press release about the Phase 3 trial data explained that one of the goals was to show that it was effective in “prevention of COVID-19 regardless of whether participants have previously been infected by SARS-CoV-2,” and that the high efficacy rate also applied to trial participants who had previously been infected. This anti-vaccine segment, which essentially argued that immunity acquired from infection is better than vaccination, aired on 162 Sinclair stations.
In April, Attkisson aired a short follow-up in which she again said it was “false” that “studies proved COVID vaccines are effective in people who already had coronavirus.”
Attkisson has continued to spread this specific anti-vaccine misinformation online. In an August 6 post to her website, she claimed data show that people “have better immunity after they're infected with the virus and recover, than if they’re vaccinated” and that the CDC is “ignoring” natural immunity. She even went so far as to call this supposedly superior immunity “the bright side” of getting COVID-19 and surviving it. (This is not the first time Attkisson has seemingly encouraged getting infected by COVID-19.)
And in an August 8 post, Attkisson claimed data from Israel showed “vaccination provides 'far less' protection than previous Covid infection.” She promoted both of these articles on her social media accounts as well.
Attkisson has also spread other COVID-19 vaccine lies on her website and social media, including falsely claiming that German nursing home residents were forcibly vaccinated and that the vaccine killed them -- neither were true. She also used the common anti-vaccine tactic of citing unverified reports from the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) to fearmonger about the COVID-19 vaccines.