Hawaii corrected its Covid-19 vaccination figures on Monday after completing a long-awaited update to its immunization registry that lowered the percentage of the population that has received at least one dose to 77%.

But health officials raised the number of people who had received third doses or booster shots.

Overall, the percent of Hawaii residents who are fully vaccinated fell from 72.5% to 71.1%. 

The state’s immunization registry came offline in early 2019 when officials decided to update it with new software, licenses and servers. When the pandemic hit a year later, the system still wasn’t functional.

This week, more than a year and a half into the pandemic, Hawaii unveiled its updated vaccination registry complete with updated Covid-19 data.

Closeup of COVID-19 Pfizer vaccine in syringes inside the Hawaii Pacific Health bus located at Ilima Intermediate School vaccinations. July 27, 2021
The Pfizer vaccine, pictured here, is one of several that helps protect against severe illness and death from Covid-19. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2021

Prior to finishing the registry upgrade, the state had to rely on the federal vaccine database. The new state data system is better able to detect duplicate vaccinations and remove vaccinations for people who don’t live in Hawaii.

State epidemiologist Sarah Kemble said that one takeaway from the update is that Hawaii is still doing very well in terms of Covid-19 vaccinations.

Hawaii reported 71 new Covid cases statewide Monday, and an average of 82 cases per day over the last week. No new Covid deaths were reported, leaving the total at 1,018.

Last week, the state said that over 85% of Hawaii’s population had at least one vaccine shot, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported. Kemble on Monday said that figure is now 77%.

Kemble said that’s because many third shots or boosters were accidentally classified as first doses. The state’s calculation of such shots rose by 67,000 people.

Monday’s press briefing came amid concern about a new Covid variant called omicron that experts fear may be more contagious than delta and may be more resistant to vaccines.

Kemble said no omicron cases have been detected in Hawaii. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said no cases have been detected anywhere in the United States.

The New York Times reported that scientists studying the variant hope to know over the next two weeks whether it can evade current vaccines.

Kemble said the Health Department realized there was a problem with its vaccine data in part because some age groups were reporting 100% vaccination rates.

The agency has sometimes struggled with data reporting problems for Covid cases, with technology glitches at labs occasionally leading to delayed Covid case counts.

Before the immunization registry update was completed, the state’s data dashboard showed 100% of people aged 50 and up had at least one vaccine shot.

Now the data says 87.7% of the age 50-64 year old category is vaccinated. That figure is 98.1% for the 75+ age group, and still 100% for people between 65 and 74 years old.

Brooks Baehr, spokesman for the Health Department, said that latter age group might still be reporting 100% vaccination in part because the population figures are just estimates.

“We know there are people in all age groups who are not yet vaccinated,” he said. “No age group has reached 100%.”

The vaccine registry upgrade also helps address discrepancies between the Hawaii vaccination data reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the state’s data. Kemble said the CDC can now pull data from the state’s immunization registry and that will result in more accurate data being reported federally.

The vaccination data upgrade also removed some people who were not Hawaii residents from the state’s data.

It did not provide additional data about racial and ethnic breakdowns in Covid vaccinations. Members of Hawaii’s Filipino community have been asking for specific data about their community, which has experienced relatively high Covid rates according to state data.

Kemble said the state has a form asking for specific racial and ethnic data upon vaccination but there’s a whole system that needs to work well in order for enough accurate data to be collected and reported.

The data that does exist suggests Native Hawaiians have relatively low vaccination rates compared with the state average, prompting community outreach efforts to improve that disparity.

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