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Data discrepancy means vaccine rates could be higher than reported in Washington and Spokane County

UPDATED: Wed., June 9, 2021

 (Molly Quinn / The Spokesman-Review)
(Molly Quinn / The Spokesman-Review)

There are likely more county and state residents vaccinated than local or state-level coronavirus vaccine numbers suggest due to roadblocks between federal and state agencies sharing data.

As of Saturday, 188,051 Spokane County residents are fully vaccinated, according to state data.

Federal data tells a different story.

As of Tuesday, 211,034 Spokane County residents are fully vaccinated, according to federal data.

The discrepancy can be explained, in part, due to missing data at the state level.

Vaccine data from the Department of Defense, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Bureau of Prisons are not included in state and local vaccine data, making some ZIP codes appear to be farther behind in their vaccine efforts than they likely are. Additionally, residents who got vaccinated out of state might not appear in state data .

For example, 99011, the ZIP code for Fairchild Air Force Base, has a vaccination rate of 4.8% for the total population, according to local health district data. But this figure is significantly lower than every other ZIP code in the county.

This is due to the fact that the Department of Defense has kept its vaccine data separate from state and local vaccine data. Vaccines have been offered on the base for months, but Fairchild would not release the number of people vaccinated at the base, due to “security reasons” as a part of the Department of Defense’s policy.

Similarly, the Department of Veterans Affairs’ vaccine data is not part of state or local totals. Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center said it intends to release the number of state residents they have vaccinated, but that data was not ready Tuesday.

The Washington Department of Health has attempted to remedy this data gap, but so far, both federal agencies have supplied only aggregate data to the health department, not individual vaccine records.

This presents a dilemma for DOH, which does not want to double-count anyone in its vaccine database. If a veteran, for example, was vaccinated somewhere other than the VA, they might be double-counted in the state’s vaccine database if they were to just add aggregate data to their system.

The Department of Health is attempting to incorporate the federal data they do have, but they have also asked the federal government to share individual vaccine records , although “there is currently not a solution,” a release from DOH on Monday said.

This data gap also means that active-duty service members or veterans whose vaccine records are not in the state’s vaccine data will be ineligible for the lottery Gov. Jay Inslee announced last week. Washington residents who received a vaccine in another state also may not be included in the state’s lottery due to similar data reconciliation challenges.

“The State of Washington is currently working with the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs to request vaccine information for residents of Washington and/or to find alternative methods for people to opt-in to having their records added to the database,” according to the lottery’s website.

Employees of the Department of Health, Washington Lottery, the Lottery Commission and governor’s office, and their family and household members are not eligible to win the vaccine lottery.

Here’s a look at local numbersThe Spokane Regional Health District confirmed 65 new cases on Tuesday. Last week, the district confirmed seven additional deaths.

There have been 653 deaths in county residents due to COVID-19.

There are 63 patients hospitalized in Spokane with the virus.

The Panhandle Health District confirmed 33 new cases on Tuesday and one additional death.

There have been 307 deaths in Panhandle residents due to COVID-19.

There are 28 Panhandle residents hospitalized with the virus.

Arielle Dreher's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is primarily funded by the Smith-Barbieri Progressive Fund, with additional support from Report for America and members of the Spokane community. These stories can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper’s managing editor.

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