What percentage of the population here has been vaccinated against the coronavirus?
Nobody knows. Not even the person in charge.
That might not make a major practical difference at the moment, but it is nonetheless disturbing.
There are at least two reasonably authoritative sources of information on vaccinations: The Kansas Department of Health and Environment, and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
For several weeks, those two sources have shown dramatically divergent figures for Riley and Geary counties. In the KDHE data, 50.5 percent of the Riley County population 12 and over is fully vaccinated. But the CDC shows the figure at 37.7 percent.
Which is correct? I asked Julie Gibbs, the director of the Riley County Health Department. She’s in charge of the coronavirus response here. Her answer: Good question. She’s frustrated, too.
The statistics are reversed in Geary County, where the CDC pegs the vaccination rate at 72.9 percent. The KDHE shows it at 37 percent.
For the sake of completeness, I’ll tell you that the figures are consistent in Pottawatomie County. Both data sources have the rate in the low 40s.
Based on what I’ve been told by health authorities from around the state, I could hazard a guess about the difference: The KDHE’s numbers are from local health departments, and they do not account for where a person is really from. That means a lot of K-State students whose drivers’ licenses show them from somewhere else got counted when they were vaccinated here. The CDC figures, though, account for that, meaning those students would be essentially distributed back to their home counties.
Meanwhile, in Geary County, the KDHE data does not account for soldiers whose vaccinations occurred in the federal system. The CDC’s numbers do include those. Worth noting: There’s a vaccine mandate, so everyone in the Army is getting a shot. Hence the dramatically higher vaccination rate there in that data source.
From your point of view, dear reader, the bottom-line question is this: If I’m walking around my hometown, what percent of the people around me are vaccinated?
I still don’t really know how to answer that. In Geary County, I’d be inclined to think the answer is more likely the 72.9 percent figure being reported by the CDC.
In Riley County? Not at all clear. Let’s say a junior at K-State was vaccinated here last spring, and her vaccination was attributed back to, say, Johnson County, in the CDC data. Well, she’s still walking around Manhattan right now, right? But if a freshman from Wichita is here on campus and he got his shot there, he wouldn’t be counted here. Meanwhile, if a person got a shot here last spring and then moved away, that also isn’t accounted for correctly.
Ms. Gibbs makes the point that it doesn’t matter much, since they’re still trying to get as many people vaccinated as possible. Fair point.
But, goodness, isn’t the truth of the matter pretty important? Can’t somebody get at it?