Philadelphia Department of Public Health incorrectly reported raised the number of pediatric COVID-19 vaccinations for several weeks – which it was recently clarified was the result of a staff error.
Due to a confusion of first and second dose, the health department reported a vaccination rate of more than 50% for children between 5 and 11 years of age. The department double-counted thousands of records at the city COVID-19 dashboard in a lack of transparency of the doses, resulting in a crude number significantly higher than the actual pediatric vaccination rate of about 26.9%.
The National Board of Health previously attributed the error to one recent aggregation of state and city databut Health Commissioner Cheryl Bettigole told The Philadelphia Inquirer that the inaccuracy has since been shown to be a product of a staff error.
The increased number appeared as a raw count of fully vaccinated children on the city’s public COVID-19 dashboard, and the department has since taken it down. Before being corrected on March 9, the site showed a pediatric vaccination rate that was about 10% higher than national average reported by the CDC.
The merged state data also increased Philadelphia’s reported adult vaccination rate, which was corrected from 82% to 76%.
Bettigole said she was aware of the problem as early as Feb. 16, but the health ministry kept announcing its error until it could confirm that new public data was correct to avoid further confusion.
“I did not want to further undermine confidence by making mistakes again,” she said, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.
A similar error also affected Pennsylvania reported vaccination rates in 2021.
This is the latest in a series of major public misconceptions from Philadelphia’s health department since the start of the pandemic – following a failed vaccine partnership with Philly fights COVID organization and a scandal involving former Health Commissioner Thomas Farley and the remains of the 1985 MOVE bombing.
Ala Stanford, the founder of Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortiumsaid in an interview with the questioner that vaccine providers are required to indicate dose and demographic information in their reports for all administered shots.
The Philadelphia Health Department now has two teams reviewing public vaccination data with greater control to avoid future errors on the city’s COVID-19 dashboard, Bettigole said.