The Oregon Health Authority (OHA) estimates that its website had recently exaggerated by about 50% the number of Baker County residents who have been partially or fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
The agency on Wednesday, March 31, temporarily blocked the section of the website listing county vaccination statistics due to the Baker County error.
Earlier this week the website showed that more than 10,400 Baker County residents — about 62% of the county’s population — had been partially or fully vaccinated.
That was by far the highest rate among Oregon’s 36 counties.
The Baker City Herald on March 23 sent an email to OHA noting that the website showed that more Baker County residents in certain age groups, including 80 and older and 75 to 79, had been vaccinated than there are residents in the county in those age ranges based on a state-supplied spreadsheet.
Baker County Commissioner Mark Bennett told the Herald last week that he believed the OHA website overstated the number of county residents who have been fully or partially vaccinated.
In a Wednesday email to the Herald, Rudy Owens, a public affairs specialist for OHA, wrote that the agency is investigating the error.
“We estimate that roughly 50% of individuals indicated as residing in Baker County were incorrect on the county data tab dashboard feature” on the OHA website, Owens wrote. “We presume Baker County had such a significant impact because it is the first county, alphabetically, in the list of Oregon counties.”
Owens wrote that OHA expects to have more detailed numbers next week.
Owens wrote that one possible source of the mistakes is a March 15 outage in the computer system, supplied by a state vendor, that tabulates vaccination statistics. The system is called Alert IIS.
“We are also actively working with our ALERT IIS vendor on solutions to avoid this error in the future,” Owens wrote in his email to the Herald.
March 15 is about when Baker County’s vaccination numbers began to rise rapidly, particularly the number of Pfizer vaccine doses administered.
By March 24 the OHA website showed that more than 4,200 doses of Pfizer vaccine had been given in Baker County, compared with just 325 in neighboring Union County, which has about 10,000 more residents.
Yet Baker County’s vaccine providers, including the Baker County Health Department, Saint Alphonsus Medical Center-Baker City, and pharmacies at the Safeway, Albertsons and Bi-Mart stores told the Herald that they either don’t use the Pfizer vaccine at all, or administer it in small numbers.
A notice posted Wednesday on the OHA COVID-19 website stated: “Vaccination data by county of residence is currently unavailable. An error in county designation for some individuals was identified on March 30, 2021 and the Oregon Immunization Program Alert IIS team is working on a solution to correct the error in county assignment.”
The error doesn’t affect statewide totals, which are still available on the website.
Bennett said that despite the counting error, he is pleased with the county’s progress in vaccinating residents.
The Health Department administered 717 doses on March 12, most at a clinic at Baker High School, and about 560 more during a March 26 clinic, most of those being second doses.
The Health Department’s next major clinic, also focusing on administering second doses to people who had their first dose on March 12, is set for Friday, April 9 at BHS.
To get on a waiting list for a vaccine, go to www.bakercountycovid19.com or call 541-523-0015.