The U.S. government has over-counted the number of Americans who are at least partly vaccinated against the coronavirus, state officials warn, meaning millions more people are unprotected as the pandemic’s winter surge gathers steam.
Last weekend, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revised a bellwether metric — the share of people 65 and older with at least one shot. The agency reduced the proportion from 99.9%, where it had been capped for weeks, to 95%, without changing its raw shot totals.
The move acknowledged a dynamic state officials have discovered: in collating reams of data on vaccinations, the U.S. has counted too many shots as first doses when they are instead second doses or booster shots.
CDC data show 240 million people with at least one shot, or about 72.5% of the population. But the agency says only 203 million are fully vaccinated, or 61.3%, an 11-percentage-point difference that is far larger than in other developed countries.
State and local officials say it’s improbable that 37 million Americans got one shot without completing their inoculations. Instead, they say, the government has regularly and incorrectly counted booster shots and second doses as first doses, a dynamic the CDC acknowledged in a statement.
Read more: Vaccine Data Gaps Point to Millions More in U.S. Who Lack Shots