A growing number of public health officials working at the state level are worried that the federal government isn't collecting enough accurate data about "breakthrough" infections, yet the Biden Administration has pushed ahead with plans to dole out booster shots, as well as other COVID policies.
According to Politico, 49 states are now regularly sending CDC information on hospitalized breakthrough patients. But more than a dozen have told Politico that they do not have the capacity to match hospital admission data with patients' immunization records, forcing states to rely on hospital administrators to report breakthrough infections.
The result is data that is often aggregated, inaccurate and missing critical details like which vaccine the consumer received . Instead, those states rely on hospital administrators to report breakthrough infections. The resulting data is often aggregated, inaccurate and omits critical details for teasing out trends, such as which vaccine a person received and whether they have been fully vaccinated, a dozen state officials said.
The fact that the CDC and public health departments across the country are still struggling to collect data on breakthrough infections is almost embarrassing, considering we're more than 18 months into the pandemic at this point, and scientists have repeatedly warned about the necessity of being prepared for the Omega Death Variant which is right around the corner, according to Dr. Fauci's latest fearmongering blitz.
“I think it would be really challenging [for the CDC] to interpret the results or to interpret the data when you have only some jurisdictions reporting [breakthrough infections],” said Theresa Sokol, lead epidemiologist for Louisiana’s state public health department, which is working closely with the CDC on studies of breakthrough infections. “I know that there are some jurisdictions that don't even have access to their vaccination data. They don't have the authority or their permission.”
Perhaps the biggest obstacle to collecting data on breakthrough infections is the balkanized nature of state health-care systems. States can't communicate with other states. For years, states have pleaded with the federal government to upgrade these systems to no avail.
Last year, the CDC allocated a small amount of money (described by Politico as "tens of millions of dollars") to help states upgrade their systems. But the CDC admits it will take years for the necessary upgrades to be made.
"Nothing has changed since the pandemic began,” one senior Biden health official said. "We’re still dealing with this patchwork system — and it continues to fail us."
Of particular concern for health officials now is how rapidly the Delta variant spreads, whether it is reducing the effectiveness of vaccines and whether it causes more severe disease. Tracking breakthrough infections is a critical step toward arriving at all of these assessments.
To complement data on hospitalized cases from the 50-state reporting network, the CDC is conducting a smaller study with a subset of states to examine all of their breakthrough infections, including mild cases that don’t send people to the hospital. The states participating in this smaller study have the ability to match lab reports with immunization records, but they don’t maintain their own databases of hospitalization data. ;
"We report what we have, but we know that it's limited because it's based on a direct report from a provider — as opposed to taking a data set of all hospitalizations and matching that against our vaccine registry,” said Sokol, the Louisiana epidemiologist. “We're not able to do that for hospitalization. We rely on individual reports from hospitals. And some report well, others do not. So we know that it's not complete."
“We don’t have a clear understanding of what the data actually says about the Delta variant, transmission and boosters,” one of those officials said.
To be sure, deliberately under-counting breakthrough infections has its advantages: for example, the Biden Administration can mask the number of breakthrough infections reported, making the vaccines appear more effective than they actually are.