Dr. Jeffrey Singer of the right-leaning Cato Institute, who is a frequent guest on Sinclair Broadcast Group’s weekday morning news program The National Desk, downplayed the fatality rate of COVID-19 in an interview about booster shots to protect people from the disease. The fatality rate among confirmed COVID-19 infections in the U.S. is actually four to five times higher than what Singer claimed.
The Biden administration announced on August 18 that every adult who received two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines should get a booster shot dated eight months after their second dose. This announcement follows the recommendation from the Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that people who are immunocompromised should get such booster shots.
Singer, a surgeon who also works as a senior fellow for the Cato Institute, was interviewed about such booster shots on August 20 by Sinclair’s The National Desk, which airs on 68 Sinclair-owned or -operated local TV stations. During the interview, Singer emphasized that the vaccines still offer effective protection against hospitalization and death, and he recommended older Americans or those with health conditions seek out the booster shots first. He also suggested the U.S. could produce plenty of vaccine doses both for the booster shots and to supply vaccine doses to other countries.
But later in the interview, Singer misleadingly claimed that “the COVID virus has between a 0.3 and 0.4% fatality rate,” suggesting the country treat the disease as a seasonal nuisance instead of prolonging restrictions to slow its spread.
Singer neglected to cite a source for his statistic on the COVID-19 fatality rate. But according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, the observed case-fatality ratio -- meaning the number of deaths divided by the number of confirmed COVID-19 infections -- is 1.7% in the United States as of August 24. It’s even higher for at least 10 other countries, especially Mexico, where the case-fatality rate is 7.8%.
Sadly, this is not Singer’s first time spreading COVID-19 misinformation on The National Desk. During the program’s premiere episode on January 18, he and Sinclair anchor Jan Jeffcoat falsely suggested that lockdowns are ineffective in slowing the spread of COVID-19. And on July 2, Singer spread skepticism of vaccinating children under the age of 12 for COVID-19, downplaying the impact of the disease among them. (Now that schools have reopened, local and national media outlets are reporting COVID-19 outbreaks in schools that are resulting in thousands of students being quarantined.)