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CDC Data

Vaccine Reporting Mistake Cost W.Va.

West Virginians got a better idea Wednesday where the disconnect occurred between the thought that almost 75% of residents had received at least their first COVID-19 vaccine shot and a frightening surge in virus cases and deaths while officials pleaded for more people to get vaccinated.

It turns out the U.S. Centers for Disease Control had been double-counting and misreporting the number of vaccinated state residents. The true percentage of residents who have received at least their first dose is closer to 64%.

“We have identified a problem with the CDC contractor data that was being provided to us, and it was specifically related to the Federal Pharmacy Program,” said James Hoyer, director of the state’s joint interagency task force. “Since the first part of May, they have been double-counting numbers they sent us relating to the federal pharmacy program.”

Gov. Jim Justice criticized the state Department of Health and Human Resources. “There’s no excuse in my opinion for the CDC to screw this up. But at the same time, there’s also no excuse for our people not knowing. We’ve got to know.”

While those government employees dropped the ball, it is reasonable to assume plenty of West Virginians used the belief that three-quarters of the state was at least partially vaccinated as an excuse to avoid getting the shot themselves. Further, the mistake could have fueled nonsensical conspiracy theories about the ineffectiveness of the vaccine.

“There is no way you can guide the ship without accurate information,” Justice said.

He’s right. The false sense of security provided by those wrong numbers may have done damage we cannot undo.

Those who keep track of numbers that can make or break our fight against COVID failed us — at both the state and federal levels, it seems. Their supervisors will have to do everything in their power to ensure this same mistake has not been made with the numbers from other states as well; and that it never happens again.

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