Number of people vaccinated in Rowan County declines after data error discovered

Published 11:06 am Saturday, October 2, 2021

SALISBURY — The number of people vaccinated in Rowan County dropped by more than 10,000 on Friday after some people vaccinated here were erroneously counted as local residents.

Rowan was one of several counties to see a decrease in the number of people vaccinated after a “regular data quality review,” the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services said in a news release. While data last week showed Rowan County topped 50% of people vaccinated with at least one dose, the state’s announcement on Friday brings the percentage to 43%.

The state counted more than 71,000 people vaccinated with at least one dose in the county on Thursday. On Friday, there were 60,523 Rowan County residents vaccinated with at least one dose.

In a news release, NCDHHS said vaccination data from the U.S. Department of Defense, Veterans Affairs, Indian Health Services and Federal Bureau of Prisons assigned some people to the county where the vaccine was given instead of where the person lived. NCDHHS said the state was the first to raise the issue to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Throughout the pandemic, NCDHHS has worked to improve data accuracy and transparency in its reporting,” the agency said in a news release. “The information on the data dashboard is used to promote equity, track progress and guide decision-making. Having the most accurate information available is important so local and state leaders have the data needed to inform decision-making.”

Rowan County Health Director Alyssa Harris pointed to the Salisbury VA as the largest source of vaccinations attributed incorrectly. Salisbury is home to one of four VA medical centers in the state. In addition to the W.G. “Bill” Hefner VA Medical Center, which serves military veterans here and in nearby counties, other VA hospitals are in Asheville, Durham and Fayetteville. 

A dashboard maintained by the Department of Veterans Affairs said Saturday the Salisbury VA has vaccinated 43,727 veterans with the first dose, 41,803 with a second dose and 1,909 with the one-shot vaccine from Johnson & Johnson. Because the data counts satellite clinics in other cities operated by the Salisbury VA,  it wasn’t immediately clear how many have been given at the Hefner VA Medical Center.

Hoke County, which contains part of Fort Bragg, saw the largest decline in vaccinations — 19% fewer people vaccinated with one dose. The second-largest decline was Orange County, which saw a drop of 11%. Rowan was third. Swain County, which is at the North Carolina-Tennessee border, saw a 15% increase in the number of people vaccinated with at least one dose.

NCDHHS says 82 counties saw an increased vaccination rate because of the correction.

Rowan County’s vaccination numbers are now as follows:

• 60,523 residents with at least one dose, which is estimated to be 43% of the population.

• 55,343 residents who are considered fully vaccinated, which is estimated to be 39% of the population.

• Limited only to those 12 and older, the population for which vaccines are fully approved, state data show 50% of people with at least one dose and 45% with fully vaccinated.

Following the update on Friday, Rowan County’s vaccination numbers are now worse than every neighboring county except Stanly.

In other local COVID-19 data:

• 414 Rowan County residents have died from COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic. That includes four new deaths reported Friday.

• 25,192 tests for COVID-19 have come back positive in Rowan County since the start of the pandemic. That includes 926 cases reported in the previous two weeks.

• 654 people are hospitalized with COVID-19 in Rowan County’s region. One month ago, the same number was 882.

• The percent of tests coming back positive is starting to flatten around 13% after a period of decline. Anything over 10% is considered to be a high level of community transmission.

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