LANSING, Mich. (Michigan News Source) – Michigan’s Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) has stopped reporting separate data for vaccinated and unvaccinated people when it releases information on COVID-19 says a report from Michigan Capitol Confidential, a news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.
The public vaccination updates were stopped in April of 2022, after about a year of reporting the data. The reports had included the publishing of data regarding the number of people who tested positive, were hospitalized or died according to their vaccination status.

To date, 30 states report cases and deaths by vaccination status. The article reports that when MDHHS was asked why they no longer report the vaccination status information, Lynn Sutfin, spokesperson for the department, said that the data is no longer being compiled at the state level and that the “surveillance system was not built to track hospitalization status of all of the individuals and link to vaccination. And with decreasing completion of case investigation, the hospital data was often missing.”

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So even though the MDHHS admits that they were publishing statistics with missing data, they ran the program that way for more than a year anyway.

Michael Van Beek, director of research at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, comments, “In this case, the state initially reported statistics on deaths, hospitalizations and positive tests by vaccination status. Then they stopped without providing an explanation. And now we learn the data was incomplete and problematic to begin with.

Unfortunately, this is the type of inconsistent and shoddy use of data has been all too common for the state regarding COVID-19.”

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A bombshell report from the New York Times on Tuesday points out that this kind of shoddy and incomplete COVID-19 data is not just a problem in Michigan, it’s a problem all over the country and within the CDC itself.
NYT reports that we have a serious COVID-19 data problem to the extent that the information that has been used to shape public policy has even been called “useless” by an FDA official.

The NYT article points out that “Decades of underinvestment in public health information systems has crippled efforts to understand the pandemic, stranding crucial data in incompatible data systems so outmoded that information often must be repeatedly typed in by hand.”

State and local health departments have struggled to gather and combine their data from different sources and pass it along to the CDC. And because CDC has received incomplete data from various sources, they have put together a patchwork of information that is being used to guide America’s health policy. Different sources inside and outside of the government are being used to capture data such as reports from hospitals about emergency room visits and inpatient infections as well as data from other countries like Israel.

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In addition, reports sent to the CDC for their Disease Surveillance Database have often resulted in information with a majority of data fields being blank except for general information regarding sex, age group and geographic location. Between privacy issues and short-staffing, local and state health departments were not always sending complete information on COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations or deaths to the CDC.

At best, the NYT reports that American health officials “have been forced to make do with extrapolations and educated guesses based on a mishmash of data.”

Because of this mishmash, the article says that federal experts are certain that a “lack of comprehensive timely data” has exacted a heavy toll because of a “digital pipeline riddled with huge holes and obstacles.”

Multiple state databases with systems incompatible with each other don’t allow for easy collaboration among local, state and federal agencies. White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator, Dr. Ashish K. Jha, says, “It has been very harmful to our response. It made it much harder to respond quickly.”

While billions of dollars were given to hospitals and health care providers to modernize their systems and transfer written and scattered computer information into integrated and digitized health records, the NYT says that “state and local health departments were largely left with the same fax machines, spreadsheets, emails and phone calls to
communicate.” In order to modernize their systems, The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society estimates that it would cost about $37 billion.

Because the CDC is not capable of receiving or keeping up with accurate data concerning a pandemic that changes on a dime, they have sometimes asked for outside help like in the case of using Kaiser Permanente of Southern California, a managed care consortium, to analyze its COVID-19 patients in order to get a handle on the
contagious Omicron variant.

NYT says that “the drought of reliable data has also repeatedly left regulators high and dry in deciding whether, when and for whom additional shots of coronavirus vaccine should be authorized.” A lack of accurate data makes them unable to examine how well the vaccines are performing against the new variants and produce updated and reliable information on breakthrough cases.

Perhaps one of the most disturbing parts of the NYT article is where they say, “…almost two years after the first COVID shots were administered, the CDC still has no national data on breakthrough cases.” So when the spokesperson for MDHHS says that the CDC is routinely updating their data tracker, we now know that Michiganders, as well as the rest of the country, are not getting good data-driven pandemic guidance from their state and federal government, especially as it relates to how well the vaccines are working.

Dr. Peter Marks, a top vaccine regulator at the FDA admits, “The CDC data is useless for actually finding out vaccine efficacy.”

Under a new CDC system being implemented called “COVID-19 electronic case reporting for public health agencies”, diagnosed diseases will be getting flagged to public health authorities so that the patient’s electronic health record automatically generates a case report to a local or state health department.

The federal government is requiring hospitals and clinicians to show progress towards getting these case reports
done by the year’s end, otherwise they could face financial penalties. According to the NYT article, so far, only 15% of the 5,300 hospitals that are certified by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services are generating these reports.
However, even if this system is implemented efficiently, if state and local health departments don’t modernize their own data operations, they won’t be able to process these reports.

Last week, President Biden declared that the pandemic was “over.” His own administration team including Anthony Fauci pushed back on that assessment, but with lack of authentic data available from those in charge of both the data and the response to the pandemic, it is impossible to know where we truly stand in regard to COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations, deaths and vaccine efficacy.

In a country where over one million people have died from COVID-19 and an estimated 400 people are still dying every day, it seem unfathomable that after 2+ years of dealing with the pandemic, our governments have still not produced a timely, efficient and comprehensive COVID-19 data tracking system.