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West Virginia officials acknowledge vaccination numbers were overcounted

West Virginia is having to adjust its vaccination numbers because of a reporting error from a contractor with the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, state officials said today.

State leaders described double counting of a particular group of vaccination numbers — people who had received vaccines through the federal retail pharmacy program — that were not adequately reviewed to remove duplications or those who should not have been counted in West Virginia figures, such as people who crossed the state border. For months, that pushed the state’s publicly reported numbers higher than they should have been.

“I don’t believe anyone did anything nefarious,” said Jim Hoyer, leader of the state’s interagency task force, while speaking on the telephone this afternoon. “I have absolutely nothing that says anything other than somebody made a mistake.”

The upshot is, West Virginia has farther to go to protect its citizens from covid-19 than it had earlier seemed.

State leaders have been describing a goal of an overall vaccination rate of 80 percent to try to protect the population from additional surges of covid-19.

Through yesterday, it looked like the rate of vaccine-eligible state residents with at least one shot was 74 percent. Hoyer had focused on residents with at least one dose because that represents people who are open to vaccination and, thus, fairly likely to proceed to a second dose.

But with adjusted figures the number of vaccine-eligible residents with at least one shot is now 63.7 percent.

“So now from a strategy standpoint, instead of thinking we were only going to have about 6 percent to go to get to 80 percent, we’ve got 16 percent,” Hoyer said in the telephone interview.

State leaders including Gov. Jim Justice first alluded to the counting problem on Monday and then provided more explanation today. Numbers on the state’s covid-19 dashboard were being adjusted.

Justice expressed frustration but tried to look on the bright side.

“In some ways by having this information it makes it better,” he said. “Because now I know we’ve got to double down even more.”

Not all numbers were completely out of whack.

The percentage of vaccine-eligible residents considered fully vaccinated was listed today as 60 percent. Yesterday it was also 60 percent.

Hoyer said the goal remains to get as many West Virginians vaccinated as possible.

He noted that of the 2,909 West Virginians who have died since the vaccine became available, only a very small percentage were fully vaccinated.

“If 98 percent of the people we care about in West Virginia that have died from this are unvaccinated — then the story is there was a mistake and we now know we’ve got a higher bogey to get to, but dammit that means we’ve got to double down and work even harder,” Hoyer said on the telephone.

“I’ve got to go figure out with the governor how to get more people vaccinated because ow I’ve got to vaccinate more people.”

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