Norman says state giving more vaccines than data show

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New state data show that Kansas has administered more than 45,000 COVID-19 vaccines, with the state’s top health official estimating the actual number is much higher.

The data compiled by the state health department shows that 45,872 doses of vaccine had been administered as of Wednesday, which is about 10,000 more than the number reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Lee Norman

And Lee Norman, the state’s health secretary, loosely estimated that the state has administered twice the 36,538 doses reported by the CDC.

“People are not sitting on the vaccine and keeping it in storage,” Norman said at Gov. Laura Kelly’s news briefing Thursday. “They’re giving it into people’s arms.”

The 45,000 vaccines reported by the state, he said, is “way low” compared to the actual number of vaccines that have already been given.

“The state isn’t holding any vaccine. It’s all been pushed out to the 278 vaccination sites ” he said. “Vaccinators are very interested in getting vaccines into people’s bodies.”

Kelly’s administration has come under criticism from Republicans for federal data that showed at one point the state was last in the country for administering the vaccine.

As of Monday, the CDC ranked Kansas last among states for its inoculation rate per 100,000 residents.

By Thursday, Kansas was no longer last, now ahead of states such as Alabama, Mississippi and South Carolina.

State officials said there was a gap between the state’s vaccine data and the data reported by the CDC.

Vaccine administrators are required to report information to federal and state databases.

Both systems require training, which has delayed inputting the data and as a result there has been a lag in the number of vaccines reported on the CDC’s website, officials said.

Norman said something as small as an errant middle initial in a patient’s name can cause a report to be rejected from the system.

“Some of it has been a training function,” Norman said. “People have been trained but as they started loading data in, they’ve had a lot of cases kicked back.”

Norman said county health departments are more skilled at inputting the data because they are more accustomed to handling vaccines.

“That’s not a new function to them, but some of the other locations are relatively new to WebIZ,” Norman said, alluding to the name of the state reporting system.

Kelly emphasized that point in her news briefing Thursday.

“Local health departments do this all the time, so it’s been no sweat to them,” she said.

“But some of our biggest vaccinators are some of our hospitals (and) they don’t normally do vaccines, so there’s been a learning curve there.”

Norman also said the data feed to the CDC is “a little bit off” right now, another contributing factor in the reporting lag between the federal and state data.

The governor on Wednesday also revealed a refined schedule for providing the vaccines, which calls for moving anyone 65 and older into the second phase of the distribution.

The timelines for each phase will depend on when and how much of the vaccine arrives in Kansas.

When the governor announced a distribution schedule for the vaccine in mid-December, the plan called for making shots available on a limited basis this winter to health care personnel, nursing home staff and residents and frontline public health workers.

In late winter, the governor’s original plan called for vaccinating first responders, some public-facing workers in essential and critical infrastructure jobs, teachers, school staff, child care workers, and individuals at high risk for adverse health consequences.

The new plan is more detailed, breaking down vaccination delivery into five separate phases with anyone 65 and older moving into the second phase.

Also included in the second phase are workers who are critical to state security, the economy, public health, or who work with lots of people and could be more at risk of coming down with COVID-19.

The second phase will include firefighters, police officers, first responders, corrections officers, grocery store workers, food service workers, teachers, custodians, drivers, and other staff as well as workers in meat processing plants.

Also covered by the second phase is anyone living in licensed congregate settings where  social distancing is not possible, such as prisons and homeless shelters.

Republicans have sharply criticized the governor for giving prisoners access to a vaccination before the general public.

The third phase will include Kansans from ages 16 to 64 with serious medical conditions that increase the risk for severe illness from COVID-19, cancer, heart disease, chronic kidney disease, pregnant women and Type 2 diabetes.

The fourth phase covers Kansans from 16 to 64 with medical conditions that increase the risk for severe illness from COVID-19 such as asthma, liver disease, Type 1 diabetes and severe obesity.

The rest of the general public will fall into Phase 5.