MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Md. (WDVM) — Montgomery County health officials say it is likely that COVID-19 vaccination totals may actually be higher than what is being reported by county and state governments across the region.
On Wednesday, WDVM’s Randi Bass asked Montgomery County’s Chief Health Officer Dr. Travis Gayles and Montgomery County’s Director of Emergency Management and Homeland Security Dr. Earl Stoddard about how vaccination totals are calculated.
They explained that a lot of jurisdictions in our region have allowed those who are employed in a city or county to be vaccinated there, even if they don’t live there.
Those non-resident vaccinations count toward and are accurately reflected in the percentage of total vaccines administered in the jurisdiction where the vaccine was given.
Here’s where it gets tricky: Gayles and Stoddard say that an out-of-jurisdiction vaccination can throw off the total number of residents vaccinated in the vaccine recipient’s home county, specifically when that vaccine is administered in another state or in the District. So, this problem isn’t specific to Montgomery County.
Gayles and Stoddard say the delay in accurate totals is because everyone is using a different system.
For example, a nurse working in Montgomery County, Md., but living in Fairfax County, Va., receives their vaccine in Montgomery County. Their dose is likely not yet reflected in Fairfax County’s total number of residents vaccinated because of differences in tracking systems across states and districts.
Right now, Montgomery County tallies say around 125,000 residents have been vaccinated, but that number does not include residents who were vaccinated in other states, or in D.C. So, officials say that number could be short by tens of thousands of residents.
“We believe there are about 10,000 Montgomery County residents who were vaccinated in D.C. because of their employment there. There are Fairfax County, Northern Virginia, and D.C. residents who come through [Montgomery County] lines, too. So, it goes both ways. We’re working to try and get those numbers through the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments. So, our numbers are, frankly, higher,” said Stoddard.
Stoddard also explained that counties and cities in the state of Maryland all share a tracking system, called ImmuNet, that tracks vaccinations among state residents using their home address. That system automatically counts vaccinations toward a resident’s county or city of residence, regardless of where in the state they received their vaccine.
So far, about 20 percent of individuals coming through mass vaccination sites at Six Flags America and the Baltimore Convention Center are Montgomery County residents, Stoddard says. Those vaccinations went directly toward Montgomery County totals even though they were not administered in Montgomery County, thanks to the ImmuNet system.