COLUMBIA, S.C. (WMBF) - Critical data to show where the COVID-19 vaccine is going and who it’s going to is still missing in South Carolina, or at least poorly presented so far.
WMBF Investigates has been asking for demographic and geographic data for weeks. Friday, DHEC answered another follow-up question on when we can expect to see this information. During a media briefing, state officials said they anticipate a new dashboard will come out on Tuesday.
“We are excited that that’s coming in, and that’s coming very soon,” said Nick Davidson, DHEC’s Senior Deputy for Public Health. “We anticipate it will be in a user-friendly version and one that is graphically-pleasing to look at and easy to interpret.”
South Carolina’s immunization information system, SIMON, helps track vaccines administered, and it also captures demographics.
DHEC told WMBF Investigates in the past the dashboard will compose of data from the state’s immunization system, along with the federally-run systems, VAMS and Tiberius.
Key data points will include age range, gender, racial and ethnic background, along with geographic information.
Mary Beth Kurilo, senior director of health informatics for the American Immunization Registry Association, said tracking this information helps point out how fairly vaccine is being distributed.
Demographic data can help public health officials know who’s in a population and how many are immunized. It helps with accurately matching a patient to the data. And it also helps find pockets of need in geographic areas, and where to tackle health disparities.
“Non-white populations are adversely affected, disproportionately affected by COVID. Race and ethnicity are very, very important,” said Kurilo. “So we try to track race and ethnicity broadly so that we can make sure not only we understand the impact of disease, but also the equitable distribution of vaccine out in the field.”
Kurilo speculated that a reason for delay in a state presenting demographic data might be that information being reported hadn’t been as complete as desired. But she attributed a more common reason potentially being that efforts have been dedicated to other matters during the pandemic.
“I think a more common reason is just time - that everyone is scrambling so quickly to onboard new providers, to make sure that reporting is as complete as possible, and a lot of these folks are working 10, 12, 14 hours and just haven’t yet been able to analyze the data and mine it for information the way we’d like to.”
Other neighboring states, however, have successfully been making this demographic data public for weeks.
Kurilo said different states have different policies on sharing information or may have more beefed up resources to tackle mining data like this.
“I know we see staffing and workflow issues in lots of our jurisdictions, and although every state has an IIS, all IIS are not equal in terms of funding and resources and workforce,” she explained. “And so - there will be variations.”
WMBF Investigates will be following the data once available to better understand how fairly and equitably the rollout of the vaccine has been so far.