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West Virginia officials say vaccination rate lower than previous CDC claims

CHARLESTON — The Centers for Disease Control have been double-counting and misreporting the number of West Virginians getting COVID-19 vaccinations, state officials revealed Wednesday.

They placed the percent of eligible state residents receiving at least one dose of the COVID vaccine at just 64.4 percent after learning of errors at the CDC. Past data had shown more than 74 percent of West Virginians getting at least one dose of the vaccine.

“We have identified a problem with the CDC contractor data that was being provided to us, and it was specifically related to the Federal Pharmacy Program,” explained James Hoyer, director of the state’s joint interagency task force. “Since the first part of May, they have been double-counting numbers they sent us relating to the federal pharmacy program.

“It has made a significant impact on our numbers.”

He said a team of data scientists from the State Department of Human Resources and West Virginia University are now reviewing COVID-related numbers received from federal agencies to make certain no others are inaccurate.

Hoyer said he is confident the team is working well to assess all data received from the national level.

Justice expressed disdain about the numbers reporting, and suggested it should have been caught at the state level.

“I do not see why in the world … I don’t get it,” Justice said. “But if I’m looking at the data and doing my job, I’m going to catch it if something is double-counted.”

Hoyer did not sit through the entirety of Justice’s briefing Wednesday, and Justice suggested Hoyer might be angry.

“You are going to catch cannonballs to the stomach every now and then,” Justice said. “You can blame the CDC — there’s no question it’s their fault.

“But there is no way you can guide the ship without accurate information.”

He said the net result is that West Virginia must now double its efforts to get people vaccinated.

“There’s no excuse in my opinion for the CDC to screw this up. But at the same time, there’s also no excuse for our people not knowing. We’ve got to know,” Justice said.

He said “the real issue is we have been sitting back thinking we’re at 74 percent and we’re not.” The state is going to have to try harder to reach out to those not vaccinated, according to Justice.

“There are people described as hell-noers out there — but they aren’t very many,” he said. “The people we have to get to are those who are truly too busy to get their shot, or who are not really well-informed and aren’t really against it. We can get those. And if we get those, we can truly make a dent in trying to stop this.”

Justice said current state hospitalization numbers show maybe West Virginia has hit its peak in COVID cases, but that it will be some time before a decrease in COVID cases is seen at the state’s hospitals.

He reported the number of those hospitalized with COVID cases in West Virginia now topping 1,000 — the highest number ever.

There are presently 280 patients in intensive care units, and 168 on ventilators.

“If we are at the peak, then it is surely still with us. But we don’t know, do we?” he said. “We’ve got to be ready, and we have to keep doing our jobs …”

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