RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — How do North Carolina’s hospitals know exactly how many of their patients are vaccinated for COVID-19?
That’s at the root of a question from a viewer who wondered if the records from some specific pharmacies don’t get counted by hospitals when they tally their totals of vaccinated and unvaccinated patients.
THE CLAIM: The viewer claimed that for those vaccinated “at a chain pharmacy but do not have a copy of your (vaccination) card at triage, you are counted as an (unvaccinated) hospitalization,” and that the state’s vaccine management system “does NOT include info from Walgreens, CVS, Walmart etc.”
THE FACTS: That’s not accurate, state Department of Health and Human Services spokeswoman Catie Armstrong said in an email.
She says most of the state’s vaccination information comes from the COVID-19 Vaccine Management System, a private, web-based system that is provided to any location that gives the COVID vaccines.
That includes CVS, Walgreens or any of the other drug stores taking part in the federal pharmacy program.
So, vaccination data from those places is in fact included in CVMS.
“Individuals who received a COVID-19 vaccine through the federal pharmacy program would be verifiable as vaccinated through CVMS,” Armstrong said.
What might cause some confusion is that people vaccinated at those places in the federal pharmacy program don’t show up in the patient portal on the CVMS website.
I also asked Dr. Adia Ross, the chief medical officer for Duke Regional Hospital, how the process works there.
It’s easy enough if the patient is a regular patient there or was vaccinated there, of course, but it becomes a bit more complicated if not.
If the places where that person was vaccinated uses a system similar to the Epic vaccine tool used by Duke, “like a sister system, then they automatically will talk to each other and it automatically uploads in your record,” she said.
She says NCDHHS also requires Duke to submit hospital data on a near-daily basis and can cross-reference them to its vaccination list.
“So it’s definitely not based on you coming in the hospital and remembering to tell your provider whether you’ve been vaccinated or not,” Ross said.
The bottom line: You can trust those counts released weekly by NCDHHS, which says 80 percent of all COVID patients and 88 percent of those in intensive care are unvaccinated. The next update is scheduled for Thursday.
“So we have all these different ways to make sure that those numbers are accurate,” Ross said. “And so I feel very confident (and) stand by the fact that, you know, 80 percent, almost 80 percent of our hospitalizations really are related to people that are unvaccinated.”
It raises an obvious, simple question that merits a serious answer. Why is it so important for hospitals to know how many of those patients are vaccinated in the first place?
“It just gives them a sense of what their risk is of getting ill,” Ross said. “If I knew you were unvaccinated, and you presented with certain symptoms, it might kind of tip me over to think, ‘OK, this is higher on the list for COVID.’
“Or, compared to someone vaccinated, if you’re unvaccinated, and you start getting sicker. It just gives us a sense of what might be going on and what your risk of getting seriously ill may be.”