How many seniors are vaccinated? The CDC’s vaccination rates against Covid appear to be inflated.


For nearly a month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s online vaccine tracking showed that virtually everyone 65 and over in the United States – 99.9% – received at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine.

It would be remarkable if it were true.

But health experts and state officials say it certainly isn’t.

They note that on Sunday, the CDC had recorded more elderly people as having been at least partially vaccinated – 55.4 million – than there are people in the age group – 54.1 million – according to the latest data from the 2019 census. The CDC’s vaccination rate for residents 65 and older is also significantly higher than the 89 percent vaccination rate found in a survey conducted in November by KFF. Likewise, a YouGov poll conducted last month for The Economist found that 83% of people 65 and over said they had received at least one initial dose of a vaccine.

And the CDC counts 21 states as having almost all of their elderly residents at least partially immunized (99.9%). But several of those states have much lower numbers in their immunization databases, including California, at 86 percent, and West Virginia, at nearly 90 percent starting Monday.

The CDC’s questionable data on vaccination rates for seniors illustrates one of the potential issues that health experts have pointed out about the CDC’s vaccination data against Covid.

Knowing precisely what proportion of the population has rolled up their sleeves for Covid injections is vital to public health efforts, said Dr Howard Forman, professor of public health at Yale University School of Medicine.

“These numbers are important,” he said, especially in efforts to increase the rates of booster doses that have been given. As of Sunday, about 47% of people 65 and over had received booster shots since the federal government made them available in September.

“I’m not sure how reliable the CDC figures are,” Forman said, pointing to the gap between state data and the agency’s 99.9% figure for seniors, which, according to him, can not be correct.

“You want to know the best data to plan and prepare and know where to put the resources in place, especially in places that are severely under-immunized,” he said.

Obtaining a precise figure on the proportion of residents who have been vaccinated is difficult for several reasons. The CDC and states may use different population estimates. State data may not include residents who get vaccinated in states other than where they live or at clinics located in federal facilities, such as prisons, or those operated by the Veterans Health Administration or the Indian. Health Service.

CDC officials said the agency may not be able to determine whether people are getting their first, second, or booster dose if they get vaccinated in different states or even from providers in the same city or town. same state. This can lead the CDC to overestimate early doses and underestimate booster doses, CDC spokesperson Scott Pauley said.

In a footnote to its Covid Vaccination Data Tracking webpage, the CDC states, “It is difficult to link doses when a person is vaccinated in different jurisdictions or at different providers due to the need to remove personally identifiable information (anonymize) data to protect people’s privacy. This means that, even with the high-quality data that the CDC receives from jurisdictions and federal entities, there are limits to how the CDC can analyze that data. “

On its scorecard, the CDC capped the percentage of the population who received a vaccine at 99.9%. But Pauley said the numbers could be wrong for several reasons, such as potential data reporting errors or the census denominator not including everyone who lives in a particular county, such as part-time residents.

Liz Hamel, vice president and director of public opinion and poll research at KFF, agrees that it is highly unlikely that 99.9% of older people have been vaccinated. She said the differences between the CDC’s vaccination rates and those found in KFF and other polls are significant. “The truth may lie somewhere in between,” she said.

Hamel noted that KFF vaccination rates closely tracked CDC figures in the spring and summer, but began to diverge in the fall, just as booster shots became available. KFF surveys show that the percentage of adults who had been at least partially vaccinated changed little from September to November, from 72 percent to 73 percent. But CDC data shows an increase from 75 percent in September to 81 percent in mid-November.

The consequences of cases will increasingly be determined by the proportion of unvaccinated and unboosted, so it is essential to get this under control in order to understand the pandemic.

Epidemiologist William Hanage, Harvard University

As of Sunday, according to the CDC, 83.4% of adults had been at least partially vaccinated.

William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology at Harvard University, said such discrepancies called into question the CDC’s figure. He said it is important to get an accurate figure on the percentage of older people who have been vaccinated because the age group is most vulnerable to serious consequences of Covid, including death.

“Correcting them is important because of the much talked about shift from worrying cases to worrying about serious outcomes like hospitalizations,” Hanage said. “The consequences of cases will increasingly be determined by the proportion of unvaccinated and unboosted people, so it is essential to get this under control in order to understand the pandemic. “

For example, CDC data shows New Hampshire leads the country in vaccination rates, with around 88% of its population having been at least partially vaccinated. The New Hampshire Vaccination Dashboard shows that 61.1% of residents have been at least partially vaccinated, but the state does not count all people who get vaccinated at pharmacies due to issues with data collection, said Jake Leon, spokesperson for the State Department of Health and Social Services.

Additionally, Pennsylvania health officials said they worked with the CDC to correct the vaccination rate figures on the federal website. The state is trying to remove duplicate vaccination records to ensure the dose classification is correct – from initial doses to boosters – said Mark O’Neil, spokesperson for the state’s Department of Health.

As part of that effort, the CDC at the end of last month reduced the reported percentage of adults in the state who had received at least one dose from 98.9% to 94.6%. It also reduced the percentage of seniors who were fully immunized from 92.5 percent to 84 percent.

However, the CDC did not change its figure for the proportion of seniors who were partially vaccinated. It remains at 99.9%. The CDC’s dashboard shows that as of Sunday, 3.1 million seniors in Pennsylvania had been at least partially vaccinated. The latest census data show that Pennsylvania has 2.4 million people aged 65 and over.


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