Lags in reporting lead to quirks in vaccination numbers at long-term care facilities

North Carolina news

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — On the most detailed vaccine breakdown yet from the state Department of Health and Human Resources, one number stands out.

Just four residents in long-term care have received the two doses needed for full vaccination.

But there’s a logical explanation for that, and it illustrates an issue with the lag in the chain of data reporting between the agencies keeping track of how many shots have gone into North Carolinians’ arms.

The state says a total of 84,438 doses have been administered so far through the federal government’s partnership with CVS and Walgreens to provide vaccines for long-term care facilities.

But data provided by the retail pharmacy companies show they’ve combined to give 89,602 shots over the past month.

CVS has given 24,649 doses at 231 skilled nursing facilities and 30,257 at 668 assisted living and other facilities, completing its first clinics at 99 percent of them.

VIEW THE CVS VACCINATION NUMBERS HERE

For Walgreens, the totals include 16,634 shots given at 185 skilled nursing facilities and 18,062 more at its 382 assigned assisted living and other facilities.

VIEW THE WALGREENS VACCINATION NUMBERS HERE

The discrepancy reflects how data flows from one group to the others.

The pharmacies report their numbers daily to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which then provides those numbers to DHHS but often they lag behind. State leaders have said they want to minimize any delays.

“Practically speaking, in my opinion anyway, it’s important to prioritize getting the shot in the arm and then dealing with the paperwork later,” said Adam Sholar, the president and CEO of the North Carolina Health Care Facilities Association, a trade group that represents the state’s nursing homes. “We’ll accept a little bit of a data lag.”

The federal program for long-term care has received criticism from many of the 49 states that are taking part — West Virginia was the lone holdout. Critics from other states say the program has been slow and hamstrung by bureaucracy and paperwork.

But Sholar says the nursing homes in North Carolina are largely satisfied with how it is working. DHHS reports 297,300 doses have been allocated by the federal government and sent to the state, with figures from the pharmacies showing more than 30 percent of that total has been administered.

“I think, overall, we’ve been really pleased with the program,” Sholar said. “It’s really unprecedented in size and scale, and to have these two companies take on not only nursing homes but all the long-term settings in North Carolina, and really have first clinics at the vast majority of those settings, including nursing homes, within the first four weeks is really impressive, and we’re certainly thankful for the priority.”

But what about that small number of second-dose recipients that DHHS reported?

The federal program began administering shots on Dec. 28 — just over four weeks ago — with the Moderna vaccine, which requires four weeks between the two doses. That means the earliest a person in the program could have received their second shot was this past Monday.

CVS says it has already held its second clinics at 17 percent of the skilled nursing facilities it was assigned.

“I think the pace … overall, it’s going well, and I think it’s going as designed,” Sholar said. “Ideally, we would have had first clinics in every nursing home across the state on Dec. 28, right? But it wasn’t feasible to do that, and I think we anticipated that we would have first clinics in all nursing homes over that four-week window, and I think that was largely achieved.

“We expect now, and we’re almost starting over — we’ll have second clinics going on over the next four weeks, so that everybody will have the opportunity to have the Moderna (vaccine) 28 days after the first dose,” Sholar said.

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