NH’s COVID-19 vaccination data has not been accurate since June. Why?

Inaccurate data from New Hampshire’s COVID-19 vaccine is now likely leading to inaccurate booster dose counts and breakthrough cases. The state’s immunization data has not been correct since June.

In a new interview with Health and Human Services Commissioner Lori Shibinette, the NHPR confirmed that the state of New Hampshire relies on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention because the state’s own records thousands of doses are missing. The process of correcting the state’s data could take months, Shibinette said.

But the commissioner also believes the CDC’s data is becoming increasingly inaccurate. She believes that many booster doses are likely poorly followed as first injections, which could cause the rate of administration of the state’s first injection to be artificially inflated.

A separate system crash in late October meant the state was also unable to report the number of new cases of the virus occurring during that time, or accurately map community transmission rates.

With COVID-19 data being the driving force behind state policy, vaccination campaigns, and individual risk assessment for New Hampshire residents and local authorities, inaccurate data means unreliable decisions.

Over the summer and early fall, the gap between the number of COVID-19 vaccine doses administered by CDCs and states grew to nearly 200,000 first doses.

As of October 21, the most recent data the NHPR had before the state disclosed its vaccine errors, state data showed 832,500 Granite Staters had received at least one dose of the vaccine, while the CDC The same metric set at over 1,000,000. Translated into a percentage, the state was reporting about 60% of Granite Staters with at least one hit, compared to 74% for the CDC.

The growing gap in vaccine data between the two entities is in part due to the end of the state of emergency in New Hampshire on June 11 and the earlier introduction of a new registry system. underfunded vaccines, the New Hampshire Immunization Information System (NHIIS).

The state of emergency ends

Commissioner Shibinette said the state could no longer collect data on the COVID-19 vaccine for people who had not had an opportunity to opt out of such information being collected by the state of New Hampshire, such as the requires state law.

Healthcare providers who did not offer an opt-out option were excluded from migrating data to NHIIS to stay in compliance with the law.

Pharmacies, which are federal vaccine suppliers, do not need to provide an opt-out option when reporting data to the federal government, which means the state can no longer import that pharmacy data into the NHIIS .

The missing pharmacy data is especially important because pharmacies like CVS, Rite Aid, and Walgreens are among the state’s largest COVID-19 vaccine suppliers.

The NHPR reported the growing gap between state and federal vaccine data over the summer. At the time, the state had not responded to multiple requests for comment on what was driving the disparity.

While state officials have long said the CDC’s data should be slightly higher than theirs, given the CDC’s ability to track certain doses that the state doesn’t have access to, the rates should be quite similar, which was no longer the case in the middle of the summer. the case. But it wasn’t until October 27 that officials clarified that they had lost the ability to track pharmacy data.

When asked why officials had not publicly shared that their own data was becoming increasingly inaccurate until the end of October, more than four months after the state of emergency ended, Commissioner Shibinette said “we had to dive in and figure out where the gap is widening.”

In response to the same question, a spokesperson for Governor Chris Sununu said that “NH data and CDC data were studied in August and September to understand the source.”

But the gap had been present since June. In the statement given to NHPR, Sununu’s office did not discuss the delay in the statement.

State officials have also not made it clear that the COVID vaccine data they released may not be reliable. Even the NHPR reports from that time were based on this data, which we now know to be incomplete.

And until that discrepancy is corrected, the state must rely on the CDC for some data. But the CDC’s data, according to Commissioner Shibinette, “is not perfect.”

“We don’t think the recall data the CDC reports reflects all of the people who have received recalls in our state,” says Shibinette.

Immature vaccine data recording system

New Hampshire was the last state in the country to implement a statewide centralized immunization registry. This means that working with pharmacies on efforts like an opt-out or with the CDC on large-scale vaccine tracking is still new, and issues are emerging in real time.

Commissioner Shibinette said it would have been better if the database had been created before a pandemic began.

“Now we are working (the database) in the midst of the pandemic, while everyone is looking at all of our numbers,” she said.

Commissioner Shibinette said the state sent de-identified data, that is, data without an individual’s name, to the CDC to protect the privacy of Granite Staters.

But the vague data could make it more difficult for the CDC to know whether some people receiving a booster have already been vaccinated or if this is their first vaccine.

Since late September, when the CDC approved Pfizer boosters, New Hampshire’s first dose count has skyrocketed at rates the state had not seen since the spring. But some health care providers across the state continued to bemoan the low rates of absorption of the first dose.

According to the CDC map, only 1.6% of fully vaccinated Granite Staters received a booster dose. This rate makes New Hampshire the worst state in the country for administering recalls.

The combination of high rates of absorption from the first dose contrasting with what healthcare providers across the state are seeing and a surprisingly low recall rate suggests that thousands of booster shots in New Hampshire could be followed by the CDC as the first doses.

The CDC did not respond to a request for comment at the time of publication.

Breakthrough case data is also difficult to track in circumstances where the person was vaccinated after the state of emergency ended, due to the state’s reliance on CDC data.

The anonymized and anonymous data that makes it difficult to match an individual’s third dose to previous doses also means that it is difficult to match an individual positive case with their vaccination status.

Inaccurate information is not the only penalty New Hampshire faces due to the lack of a vaccination record. Earlier this year, the state relied on a problematic federal system to schedule appointments for older residents.

Many state health care providers say the NHIIS is time consuming and complicated. They must manually enter their own data collection into the system. For some smaller doctor’s offices, the burden of paperwork is part of the reason they don’t offer COVID-19 vaccines in their practices.

A break in funding

Funding to rectify vaccine data problems and help providers switch to using NHIIS was at the heart of the $ 27 million federal funding rejected by Executive Council last month.

The larger of the two contracts, worth $ 22.5 million, largely focused on improving the NHIIS and included a section on creating a link between the registry and other systems. Jim Potter of the New Hampshire Medical Society called the funding crucial for New Hampshire healthcare providers trying to use the new system.

Successful pairing of multiple systems would also help the state track drugstore COVID-19 vaccine data and, therefore, accurately track vaccination data, Shibinette said.

With the funding rejected by the Executive Council, Shibinette said she was considering alternative sources, such as US bailout dollars, a strategy that proved effective last week.

“When the money was rejected it became very, very obvious that there was no quick resolution,” she said.

These articles are shared by The Granite State News Collaborative partners. For more information, visit collaborativenh.org.

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