Gov. Spencer Cox apologized Monday, saying “we screwed up” by declaring the state had hit his goal of getting 70% of Utah adults vaccinated against COVID-19 with at least one dose by July 4 when the actual number was just over 67%.
“A couple days ago, we learned that there was a mistake in the way we had counted federal doses,” the governor said in a statement. “It soon became clear that we had only reached 67.07%. While federal data sharing has been extremely difficult, this one is on us. Our data team is devastated and embarrassed. And so am I.”
Cox announced July 6 that the state had reached 70% — the same goal set by President Joe Biden for the nation but failed to reach — by counting vaccine doses administered through federal agencies such as the Veterans Administration, on top of those reported by the state.
In a series of tweets detailing the math, the governor said then it was “truly a milestone worth celebrating!” but continued to urge all Utahns to get the shots because “we’re not out of the woods yet. Unfortunately, the pandemic is not over.”
A few days earlier, Utah had been expected to fall short of the goal along with some 30 other states, with Cox anticipating the state would come “very close,” so his announcement after the Fourth of July holiday weekend came as a surprise.
Monday, the governor blamed “an error reported by the Utah Department of Health” and said “when we were told by our data team that we had reached 70% of adult Utahns receiving at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccines, we were surprised and excited and a little skeptical,” but accepted the results after checking the numbers.
Tom Hudachko, state health department spokesman, said a “misunderstanding led to single doses being counted multiple times” in the federal vaccination database called Tiberius. Hudachko said the state had “mistakenly interpreted all federal doses reported in Tiberius as ‘new’ doses, when in fact Tiberius reports ‘cumulative’ doses.”
Cox said while the state “came up short as a result of simple human error, I’m happy to report that there is no evidence of any ethical breaches in this mistake” and praised the state health department data team’s efforts throughout the pandemic.
“While this miscalculation is inexcusable, they have reexamined processes to prevent this type of error from happening again,” the governor said.
The state health department’s latest calculation show that as of Monday, 67.07% of Utah adults have received at least one dose rather than the 70.2% previously reported.
This includes 1,495,752 doses reported through the state’s data system and 29,880 doses reported through the federal data system, for a total of 1,525,632 total first doses administered to Utahns ages 18 and older. These doses divided by the 2019 adult population of 2,274,774 equals 67.07% of the adult population.
“It is disappointing to discover we did not reach our goal of vaccinating 70% of adults with at least one dose by July 4. And we regret that inaccurate information was relayed to Gov. Cox and the people of Utah,” Hudachko said. “But we remain steadfast in our commitment to presenting data accurately, transparently and with integrity.”
Utah Senate President Stuart Adams, R-Layton, tweeted: “I appreciate Gov. @SpencerJCox’s transparency and dedication to sharing accurate information,” sharing a link to the state’s vaccination website.
The GOP governor and state legislative leaders have been in talks about offering incentives to Utahns to get the shots.
Vaccinations against the deadly virus have lagged in Utah as case counts, hospitalizations and deaths are increasing due to the highly contagious delta variant spreading among an overall population that is still less than 45% fully vaccinated as of Monday.