Kansas struggles to fix vaccine reporting issues

US experts express concern over Russian COVID-19 vaccine
Posted at 11:52 AM, Feb 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-15 12:52:38-05

MISSION, Kan. (AP) — Kansas is working to fix its troubled system for sending vaccine data to the federal government, saying glitches caused about 100,000 doses that were given to not be registered as being administered.

The state's vaccination rate has consistently ranked as among the lowest in the country. As of Friday, 9.4% of the state's population had been vaccinated, with 273,428 people receiving at least the first of two required doses, state health data showed.

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data shows the state administering only 60.2% of the 581,975 doses it has received. The state, however, puts the figure at 63.8% and says it has received 572,275 doses.

Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly said in her biweekly conference call with elected officials last week that part of the problem is with the system that the state uses to track vaccinations, which is called Kansas WebIZ.

"That system then needs to send that information to the CDC and there have been some glitches really all along the path," said Kelly. "We are bringing in the vendor who put WebIZ together to work on the technical fixes that need to be in place to smooth out that process."

Kelly said the state also is working to make sure health care providers aren't holding onto doses, although she said that caused only a small part of the problem.

The team is working to fix the issues even as new cases drop. Kansas' health department added 1,208 new confirmed cases from Wednesday to Friday, pushing the state's pandemic total to 286,102. It also added 61 more COVID-19 deaths, pushing the Kansas death toll to 4,364.

"I expect over the next few weeks that we should start to see more realistic numbers coming out of CDC that reflect the number of vaccinations that we are actually doing," Kelly said.

Marci Nielsen, a special advisor to Kelly, said most of the problems are occurring in six counties - Harvey, Sedgwick, Shawnee, Douglas, Johnson and Wyandotte.

She said one issue is that when vaccines are transferred from one entity with excess vaccine to another that is in need, the accounting systems shows the vaccine is unaccounted for, even if it has been administered. She said that happened with the University of Kansas Health System when it sent some doses to Wyandotte County health officials.

Also, if a field is left blank, the CDC isn't getting the data, making it appear that the dose hasn't been administered, Nielsen said.

"Our estimates are that at this point 70% of the quote-unquote unaccounted for doses appear to be doses that we can see have gone into somebody's arm," Nielsen said. "But we have to track each of them down."

She said other states with similar problems have done workarounds while they try to fix the underlying technology problems.

"Kansas I suspect will ultimately have to do that and all options are on the table," Nielsen said. "We hope you will start seeing a shift in the right direction within a week or two."

She said the bottom line is that the state's vaccination numbers are better than they look on paper.

Data problems have been widespread nationally, said Claire Hannan, executive director of the Association of Immunization Managers. She said the organization surveyed its members a few weeks ago to determine why the number of vaccines distributed was so much higher than the vaccines administered. She said the most chosen response was "data reporting issue."

Dennis Kriesel, executive director of the Kansas Association of Local Health Departments, said the situation has been frustrating for local health departments.

"They don't want to be blamed for not inoculating people if they actually have done it. The main concern I have heard is, 'Hey, the public thinks we have more vaccine than we do. They think we still have some. And our numbers don't match up. It makes us look like we don't know what we are doing.'"