San Mateo County health officials issued a data correction on Thursday that shows fewer people in the county have been vaccinated than previously accounted for, setting back goals of vaccinating at least 80% of every community by the end of the year. 

“We recognize that trust in us requires full transparency in relaying data problems like this one and we want to fully explain what occurred and our next steps,” Chief of Health Louise Rogers said in a Message from the Chief published Oct. 14. 

In her message, Rogers explained that County Health had not been capturing all of the corrections the state was making to vaccination data because staff was not downloading demographic updates that tossed out duplicates and corrected address data. 

Instead, the county was downloading incremental updates with new local vaccination numbers. After spotting the mistake, the county corrected its dashboard by reducing the number of vaccinated residents by about 36,000 people, dropping the county’s vaccination rate from 95% to just under 90%. 

“We discovered that our process for synthesizing state data for our local reporting was flawed, which has resulted in diminished accuracy of the vaccination information on our dashboards,” Rogers said. “Our process for downloading the data has been corrected to improve the accuracy of the data we publish daily.” 

Vaccination rates among the most underserved groups have also dropped around 5%, Rogers said. For children ages 12 to 15, the rate fell from 82% to 78.3% while smaller decreases were reported for Black, Hispanic and Pacific Islander communities with rates just over 60%. 

The adjustments are a setback to a goal of health officials to reach at least 80% of each subgroup with vaccinations by the end of the year. Still, officials have roughly noted that the figures are likely an undercount of how many people have actually been vaccinated in each ethnic group given the number of people who have either identified as “other” or didn’t identify their race at all. 

Despite vaccination rate being lower than believed, COVID-19 infections have still continued to drop in the county. Based on a seven-day lagged average, the county is experiencing about 5.6 new cases per 100,000 residents a day or about 44 new COVID-19 cases, Rogers reported.

Just last week, state data showed the county had an average of 62 new cases a day. Hospitalizations have remained low but haven’t dropped below the 10 to 24 patients seen in recent weeks. Of those being hospitalized, six were in the ICU as of Thursday, Oct. 14. 

Noting the unvaccinated are 10 times more likely to experience hospitalizations if they contract COVID-19, Rogers encouraged the public to get a shot if they haven’t yet done so. Vaccines for children as young as 5 are expected to be available in November, she said. 

First and second doses and booster shots for specific groups who’ve received the Pfizer Inc. vaccine, including the elderly, those with underlying health conditions and people at higher risk due to their job are also being offered at the San Mateo County Event Center. People may also go to their health care providers. 

“We see our community’s collective determination reflected in the high reach of the COVID-19 vaccine, the many pathways being accessed for third-shot Pfizer boosters, and the COVID-19 case rate, hospitalization and positivity trends trending downward,” Rogers said. “We are so grateful for all the ways our residents continue to further this progress and stay engaged about changes to our situation.”

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