CDC’s miscalculated jab data poses risk as winter looms
The US Centers for Disease Control has overcounted the number of Americans who have received Covid-19 vaccines, recording numerous second doses and boosters as first shots, state officials told Bloomberg.
While the CDC’s data suggests some 240 million Americans have received at least one shot, the statistics claim just 203 million are fully vaccinated, a statistic which would suggest 37 million Americans started - but did not finish - their course of injections.
However, state and local officials who spoke to Bloomberg on Saturday found those numbers “improbable,” suggesting instead that the government had incorrectly recorded Americans’ vaccine data on a grand scale, mis-counting second doses and booster shots as first doses and thus overestimating the number of vaccinated Americans altogether.
As a result, both the completely-vaccinated and the completely-unvaccinated are overcounted in the CDC’s statistics. According to the article, state health departments have been quietly tweaking their statistics in the hope of coming up with more realistic numbers over the last month, measuring those against the national figures and adjusting accordingly, but it’s difficult to know what the real numbers are.
Not only does each individual state maintain its own numbers, but some have several repositories of data and all state health departments receive input from health insurers, federal programs, and pharmacies. The national vaccine rollout took place not just at pharmacies and doctors’ offices but also at pop-up sites, with everyone from public transit agencies to school districts setting up spaces to maximize the amount of shots entering arms. Further complicating matters, many patients received their second or booster shots at different locations, with some even receiving different brands of vaccine - and nothing but a paper vaccine card to tie the fragments together.
Many state health officials were pessimistic about the ability to reconcile national numbers with their own data, noting that the mismatched figures made it “really difficult” to “target our booster messaging.”
“We don’t have any faith in the numbers on the CDC website, and we never refer to them,” Philadelphia Department of Public Health spokesman James Garrow told Bloomberg. The state of Pennsylvania lowered its estimate for adults who’d received one shot from 98.9% to 94.6% last month, and plans to submit another round of revised figures by the end of the year.
The state of Illinois found it had overcounted both the unvaccinated and the fully-vaccinated - with 540,000 more unvaxxed over the age of 12 and 730,000 totally vaccinated who had somehow been skipped in previous counts.
While the official statistics appear to indicate the US - with 72.5% of its population having received at least one shot but just 61.3% fully-vaxxed - is a major outlier compared to other Group of Seven countries, the discrepancy is more likely to be due to the fragmentation of recordkeeping.
According to Bloomberg's statistics, the European Union has just a 2.6% gap between the singly-vaxxed and the fully-jabbed, and while the US has the largest disparity at 11%, the UK is second among G7 nations with a 6.7% gap.