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INACCURATE CDC VACCINE DATA

A TROUBLING REALITY

We strongly support the idea of people getting vaccines. However, we are disturbed that there is inconsistent data about vaccinations being published by health officials.

One problem is that a lot of Americans have apparently skipped their second Covid-19 shot. We just don't know exactly how many. There appear to be millions of Americans walking around who have received a single dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, who may think they are protected against whatever the virus can throw at them — and who could be sorely wrong. To start with the national data: There is about an 11-point gap between the share of Americans who have received at least one dose (71 percent) and the share who are fully vaccinated (60 percent) (Mayoclinic). That means as many as 36 million Americans are partially but not fully vaccinated. (Vox, 12-11-21)

Another troubling revelations that occurred recently, is that the CDC has been publishing inflated vaccine rates. Knowing the vaccination rates is critical in determining which locations need more vaccines and how many more people need to be vaccinated. So having the wrong information is highly problematic.

For nearly a month, the Center for Disease Control's online vaccine tracker showed that virtually everyone 65 and older in the United States — 99.9% — had received at least one COVID vaccine dose. That would remarkable if true. However, this unfortunately was not true. Health experts have noted that the CDC had recorded more seniors as having been at least partly vaccinated — 55.4 million — than there are people in the age group — 54.1 million — according to the latest census data from 2019 (NBC, 12-8-21).

The CDC’s vaccination rate for residents 65 and older is also significantly higher than the 89 percent vaccination rate found in a poll conducted in November 2021 by KFF. Similarly, a YouGov poll conducted in November 2021 for The Economist found that 83 percent of people 65 and up said they had received at least an initial dose of a vaccine.

Knowing with accuracy what proportion of the population has rolled up sleeves for Covid shots is vital to public health efforts, said Dr. Howard Forman, a professor of public health at Yale University School of Medicine. “These numbers matter,” he said, particularly in efforts to increase the rates of booster doses that have been administered (NBC, 12-8-21).

Getting an accurate figure on the proportion of residents who have been vaccinated is difficult for several reasons. The CDC and states may be using different population estimates. State data may not account for residents who get vaccinated in states other than where they live or in clinics in federal facilities, such as prisons, or those managed by the Veterans Health Administration or the Indian Health Service. (NBC, 12-8-21)

CDC officials said the agency may not be able to determine whether people are getting their first, second or booster doses if they got their shots in different states or even from providers in the same city or state. That can lead the CDC to overestimate first doses and underestimate booster doses, CDC spokesperson Scott Pauley said. (NBC, 12-8-21)

In a footnote on its Covid vaccination data tracker webpage, the CDC says: “There are challenges in linking doses when someone is vaccinated in different jurisdictions or at different providers because of the need to remove personally identifiable information (de-identify) data to protect people’s privacy. This means that, even with the high-quality data CDC receives from jurisdictions and federal entities, there are limits to how CDC can analyze those data.”


CDC DATA

COVID-19 Vaccinations in the United States (CDC)

 

NON CDC POLLS ON VACCINE RATES

Mayo Clinic Vaccine Tracker

KFF (November, 2021)

YouGov (November, 2021)

 

NEWS STORIES

Accuracy issues raise red flags because the data is used to plan and direct resources in the nation’s continuing response to the COVID-19 pandemic. (WUSF, 12-12-21)

Health Experts Worry CDC’s Covid Vaccination Rates Appear Inflated (KHN, 12-9-21)

The CDC's vaccine data is all wrong (Slow Boring, 12-7-21)

Data correction drops COVID vaccine rates in Pennsylvania (AP News, 11-26-21)