Texas health official explains issues that may distort how many vaccine doses are actually available

Data shows discrepancy between vaccine allotment, administration numbers

FILE - In this Dec. 24, 2020, file photo, a COVID-19 vaccination record card is shown at Seton Medical Center during the coronavirus pandemic in Daly City, Calif. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File) (Jeff Chiu, Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

While the development of COVID-19 vaccines has brought hope of ending the pandemic, the rollout has had complications in Texas.

The state’s vaccine distribution dashboard seems to show that nearly half of distributed doses are still unused, adding more frustration to tens of thousands of Texans who are eligible but not able to find an appointment. But state officials admit the data may be misleading.

The confusion

When the vaccine was initially approved, Texas officials announced that frontline health care workers would be the first to be inoculated in Phase 1A of the rollout. Shortly after, and well before all of Phase 1A was vaccinated, the state added residents in Phase 1B — 65 and over or those with underlying medical conditions — as eligible to receive the vaccine.

While some people in Phase 1B have been able to secure their first dose of the vaccine, the majority have searched for vaccination appointments with little success. In San Antonio, many providers say they’re waiting on more shipments of the vaccine from the state and federal government before they’re able to inoculate more people, particularly in Phase 1B. In some cases, doses that have not yet been received by the provider are already scheduled to be delivered to a person in Phase 1A.

Despite the great demand for the vaccine and a sizable population of Texans who are eligible to get the vaccine but have yet to find an appointment, the state’s data still shows a wide discrepancy between the number of vaccines shipped to providers and the number of Texans who have received a vaccine dose already.

For example, Texas Department of State Health Services data shows that, as of Tuesday, more than 944,000 vaccines have already been shipped to providers and only 414,000 have been administered.

MORE: Your questions answered: COVID-19 vaccine in Texas

In Bexar County, without the recently announced fourth week of vaccine allotments accounted for, 82,450 doses have been delivered, according to state data. The state’s dashboard shows a total of 35,999 Bexar County residents have received the vaccine as of Tuesday.

On Dec. 29, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott had boosted concerns that providers were not giving the vaccine fast enough on Twitter.

What the state health department says

Lara Anton, a press officer with the state’s health department, on Tuesday told KSAT that the state is directing providers to use their entire supply of vaccine doses each week and attempted to add clarity.

Anton said there are several reasons that discrepancy exists in the state’s data.

First, “it may be the case that providers have already set up appointments are working through a waitlist of people in Phase 1A for the vaccine that they have received,” Anton wrote.

Some providers have also reported issues in submitting their data.

“These data submission issues can stem from using an improper date format or the wrong organization code to report their data,” Anton wrote.

Lastly, Anton wrote that the dashboard is subject to an “inherent lag.” Providers have 24 hours to enter the data into the state’s tracking system, ImmTrac2, and the data is pulled at midnight the night before it is posted.

With the holidays behind us, state officials are hoping vaccination efforts ramp up as more shipments are delivered to Texas providers in the coming weeks.

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