Gov. Cox: ‘We screwed up, and I sincerely apologize’ for vaccination milestone math error

File image: Video still, Facebook/Gov. Spencer Cox

UTAH, July 12, 2021 (Gephardt Daily) — Gov. Spencer Cox announced Monday morning that he had unknowingly misreported the percentage of Utahns vaccinated as of July 4 as 70%, and now understands the correct number was 67.07%.

“We screwed up. And I sincerely apologize,” Cox said in a prepared statement.

“When I became governor, I promised that I would hold myself and others in state government accountable and admit our mistakes,” Cox’s statement says.

“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. Rather than announcing it, we decided to wait a few days to double- and triple-check the numbers. Every report came back that the numbers were accurate and so we went with it.”

Cox announced on Tuesday, July 6, that Utahns had reached the milestone of 70% vaccination by July 4.

“A couple days ago, we learned that there was a mistake in the way we had counted federal doses. It soon became clear that we had only reached 67.07%,” Cox’s new statement continues. “While federal data sharing has been extremely difficult, this one is on us. Our data team is devastated and embarrassed. And so am I.

“From the beginning we have emphasized the importance of building trust with the citizens of our state. Trust consists of two things: competence and ethical behavior. While we 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.”

The math error reportedly originated with the Utah Department of Health. Cox praised all the other of the UDoH data team during the pandemic.

“At times working around the clock, these public servants have been recognized as one of the most thorough and transparent data teams in the country. While this miscalculation is inexcusable, they have re-examined processes to prevent this type of error from happening again.

“Most importantly though, this means we have even more work to get Utahns vaccinated. We will continue to do everything possible to make vaccinations easier and more accessible. And we will continue to hold ourselves accountable.”

Cox’s statement was issued shortly after one from the UDoH, which follows, in full, below:

The Utah Department of Health (UDOH) has discovered an error in the way the Department had previously been interpreting federal vaccination data. As a result, UDOH has revised the reported percentage of Utah adults who have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. As of July 12, 2021, 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.

COVID-19 vaccine doses administered by federal agencies like the Department of Defense, Veterans Affairs, Indian Health Services, and the Bureau of Prisons are not reported directly to the state’s immunization data system. Instead, UDOH staff access these data through a federal system called Tiberius.

The UDOH mistakenly interpreted all federal doses reported in Tiberius as “new” doses, when in fact Tiberius reports “cumulative” doses. This misunderstanding led to single doses being counted multiple times.

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. But we remain steadfast in our commitment to presenting data accurately, transparently, and with integrity.

With the highly transmissible Delta variant spreading in Utah, it is more important than ever for all eligible Utahns to get vaccinated. We will continue to do everything we can to make getting vaccinated as easy as possible, and to help provide Utahns accurate information to help them make informed decisions about the vaccine.


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