4 December 2023

False: German scientist did not say vaccination caused the delta variant in a recent conference

Karl Lauterbach, a German epidemiologist and also a politician, did not make any statement that links inoculation to the origins of the delta variant in a COVID-19 conference on June 21.

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A Chinese post on Twitter claimed on June 26 that a German scientist, who is also a politician, has “admitted” the emergence of the delta variant was “triggered by vaccination.”

The tweet had over 370 likes and 230 retweets before being removed for violating the platform’s rules.

The tweet included two screenshots. One shows the image of a search result information box about Karl Lauterbach, a German epidemiologist and a member of the Social Democratic Party (SPD).

The other displays a video conference in which Lauterbach talked to another SPD politician Wolfgang Thierse and Udo Hahn, the Director of Evangelischen Akademie [Protestant Academy] in Tutzing, Germany.

The screenshot also has an added caption in German to suggest Lauterbach has “admitted” the claim in the video.

Screenshot used in the tweet (left); Screenshot of the same video clip from the Youtube channel of Evangelischen Akademie (right)

The hour-long session was the second segment of the summer conference series named “Nach Corona (After Corona)” held online by the Protestant conference center in Tutzing on June 21.

However, the claim is false.

According to the press release on the Academy’s website, the conference aimed at “engaging with politicians, civil society and the church to review the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Annie Lab went through the video and transcribed the whole conference (German script here; English translation here) and found no evidence of Lauterbach making the claim that vaccination caused the emergence of the delta variant in this specific conference.

Annie Lab sent a Facebook message to the Academy on July 5 for clarification. Their press officer Dorothea Grass confirmed that neither Lauterbach or any of the other speakers in the conference made such a claim.

“We are surprised… Karl Lauterbach did not say that the delta variant is caused by the vaccination. He described as a scientist the way viruses are spreading,” she said.

With translation help from German journalist Tabea Grzeszyk, Annie Lab was able to determine that the only instance (1:02:03) where Lauterbach made a correlation between the vaccines and the delta variant of the COVID-19 virus was when he expressed his belief that people will have to be vaccinated in order to be protected from the delta variant.

“Vaccination refusal or the skeptics will subsequently cause the delta variant, or any other following variants, to make headway,” he said.

Lauterbach reviewed Germany’s response plans and strategies to the COVID-19 pandemic and said the country has a well-developed healthcare system but new cases surged and unnecessary deaths occurred with lockdowns being improperly implemented.

Stressing the importance of vaccinations, he encouraged people, including children, to get their vaccines as soon as possible. He also expressed concerns over the inequalities in global healthcare systems, stating that developing nations in Southeast Asia, Africa and South America have not yet received sufficient amounts of vaccines.

Near the end of the discussion, he was asked to predict another outbreak in Germany and said it is highly possible that the delta variant will cause a small outbreak in Autumn.

The SARS-CoV-2 delta variant B.1.617.2 was first detected in India in October 2020. According to a podcast by the World Health Organization, the delta variant has a high transmission rate and can spread more quickly and efficiently than the alpha variant.

As of July 29, Germany has recorded 3.76 million cases of COVID-19, with 51% of Germany’s population being fully vaccinated. According to German newspaper Die Zeit, 22 out of 58 COVID-19 cases in Germany were infected with delta mutation in the first week of July.

The Federal Ministry of Health has since said Germany is seeing a slow but steady increase in delta variant infections, with 84% of new coronavirus cases reported traced back to the delta variant.

The WHO said COVID-19 vaccines are expected to still provide “some protection” even with the emergence of new variants, adding that mutations in the virus will not wholly render the vaccines ineffective.

Vaccinations also help reduce the rate of transmission, lowering the chances for the virus to mutate further, according to the international body.