The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Friday October 15th

Orange County COVID-19 vaccination rate decreases due to CDC miscalculations

UNC pharmacists prepare a vaccine dose in the former Wendy’s in the Student Union on March 31, 2021. As North Carolina began to allow college students to receive coronavirus vaccines, UNC opened a clinic on campus where students can receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Buy Photos UNC pharmacists prepare a vaccine dose in the former Wendy’s in the Student Union on March 31, 2021. As North Carolina began to allow college students to receive coronavirus vaccines, UNC opened a clinic on campus where students can receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

The COVID-19 vaccination rate in Orange County is not as high as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention previously reported.

The error stems from calculating vaccination rates based on where people received their shots instead of where they lived.

After the miscalculation was accounted for, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services announced Orange County's vaccination rate decreased 11 percent.

“Last week, the state discovered a reporting error which impacted vaccination rates for several counties across the state," Orange County Health Director Quintana Stewart said in an email. "It appears that the CDC was using a vaccination report based on county of administration rather than county of residence.”

Stewart said the CDC is now providing the NCDHHS with the correct vaccine information, which can be found on their online public dashboard.

Orange County had the second greatest drop in vaccination rates after the data was adjusted. Hoke County saw the highest reduction in vaccination rates at 19 percent after the update. 

The rate of fully vaccinated individuals in Orange County as of Oct. 12 is 70 percent, while 72 percent of the population is partially vaccinated.

However, not all of the previously used information was misrepresented. 

“The change in county data for federal entities will not impact demographic data, which does not include vaccinations provided by the Department of Defense, Veterans Affairs or Indian Health Service,” Stewart wrote. 

North Carolina was the first state to question the CDC on the miscalculations, according to a press release from the state's health department. 

The agency said in a statement they believe this is due to the amount of data its public dashboard reports.

“Throughout the pandemic, NCDHHS has worked to improve data accuracy and transparency in its reporting," Bailey Pennington, NCDHHS communications specialist, wrote in an email. "The discrepancy was identified through a routine data review and quality check process.” 

The NCDHHS is working with local health departments on any needed changes to vaccine strategy and communication in the seven counties that the reporting errors most affected.

“Having the most accurate information available is important so local and state leaders have the data needed to inform decision-making,” the press release said. 

In addition, on Oct. 4, the NCDHHS began reporting individuals reinfected with COVID-19 as part of their case count. 

“A reinfection means a person was infected once with COVID-19, recovered, and then tested positive at least 90 days after their initial positive test," the press release said. "As of Sept. 26, 2021, more than 10,000 reinfections have occurred in North Carolina since the pandemic began in March 2020.” 

The NCDHHS said in the press release that it believes that including reinfections on the dashboard provides a better representation of the case counts in each individual county. However, reinfection data prior to Oct. 1 will not be included on the dashboard. 

Jordan Montgomery, a first-year student at UNC, said she is happy to hear the COVID-19 vaccination rates have been revised in the county and hopes community members will take note of the new data.

“The vaccine makes everyone safer as a whole," Montgomery said. "The more people that get the vaccine, the closer we get to ending the pandemic.” 

Montgomery said she feels more comfortable when people are vaccinated, especially because her dad is high-risk. She said she hopes more people will operate with high-risk patients in mind.

“The vaccine is not 100 percent foolproof, but it definitely reduces the risk,” Montgomery said. “I am glad the information has been corrected.”

@austinlblake

@DTHCityState | city@dailytarheel.com 

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