NC vaccine dashboard doesn’t include count of COVID boosters. Here’s why that matters

Coronavirus

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — State public health officials say nearly 12 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been given across North Carolina.

But that might be an undercount — because it doesn’t include the number of boosters.

North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services spokeswomen Bailey Pennington told said in a statement to CBS 17 News that booster doses are in fact not included on the data dashboard. Spokeswoman Catie Armstrong said the holdup has to do with the agency “aligning our reporting logic in (the COVID-19 Vaccine Management System) with the CDC’s and their requirements about reporting booster doses” and says NCDHHS anticipates having it available in the future.

“We are continuing to assess potential changes to our data dashboards to ensure what we share is accurate and transparent about the vaccination efforts in North Carolina,” Pennington said in the statement.

(Source: CDC)

It’s an issue because if we don’t know which ages, races or other demographic groups are getting boosters at lower rates — or if certain parts of the state lag behind others — identifying the specific problems becomes that much more difficult.

“I think it would be great to have as clear a visibility as possible,” said Dr. Cameron Wolfe, an infectious disease specialist at Duke University’s school of medicine.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does provide an overall count at the state level, showing just over 486,000 booster doses given to the state’s nearly 6 million vaccinated adults.

That rate of 9.3 percent ranks near the bottom nationally, with North Carolina joining only four other states — New Hampshire, West Virginia, New York and Pennsylvania — where it has yet to reach 10 percent.

“It tells us we ought to do more work,” Wolfe said.

National Public Radio previously reported that more than 21 million people have already received a booster in the relatively short time they’ve been available, with the same people who were first in line for their first shots seemingly just as enthusiastic to get another one.

And of course, you can’t get a booster unless you’re fully vaccinated first — which only two-thirds of North Carolina’s adults are.

“Would it be great to have an accurate and precise count? I think it would,” Wolfe said. “But I think it’s also important to remember that we’ve still got a large chunk of the community that didn’t take the first dose and can’t forget them, too.”

But it doesn’t have to be one or the other. While some have worried the push for boosters could distract from the primary goal of getting those first and second shots to the millions who are eligible but have yet to get them.

“I don’t see them as being different,” Wolfe said. “I think they’re completely complementary to the overall idea of reducing COVID.”

In fact, Wolfe says this week might be the most opportune time to get a booster.

It takes two weeks to feel the full benefit of a COVID-19 vaccine shot — and Thanksgiving is two weeks from Thursday. A year ago, before the vaccines were widely available, family gatherings for the holidays fueled the winter surge in cases and deaths.

“Now is actually a really good time to get yourself protected such that that family mingling that last year saw our numbers really jet-stream up, maybe we can head that off this year,” he said.

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