Senior in mask receiving bandage after vaccination
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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s online tracker currently shows that 99.9% of U.S. seniors aged 65 years and older have been at least partly vaccinated against COVID-19. But this sky-high figure is almost certainly not accurate, experts say.

There are many reasons that this estimate is likely inflated, state health officials and expert observers have told Kaiser Health News. For one, states have come up with different percentages, and may be relying on different population estimates than the CDC. In addition, ​​tricky census details and potential data-reporting errors could be having an impact on the numbers, state health officials and other experts said. 

Some of the 21 states that are reported by the CDC to have nearly all of their senior residents at least partly vaccinated against the coronavirus are showing much lower figures. California and West Virginia, for example, have reported that 86% and 90% of their seniors are inoculated, respectively, KHN reported.

The fact that the CDC is working with a population estimate of 55.4 million in this age group also gives observers pause. The number found in the latest census data from 2019 is 54.1 million. In addition, a Kaiser Family Fund poll published in November found an 89% vaccination rate among these seniors, the news outlet reported Thursday. 

These reporting differences are significant, and the truth may lie somewhere in between, according to Liz Hamel, vice president and director of public opinion and survey research at KFF.

But the precise accuracy of this data is vital to public health efforts, Howard Forman, M.D., a public health expert with the Yale University School of Medicine, told KHN.

“You want to know the best data to plan and prepare and know where to put resources in place — particularly in places that are grossly undervaccinated,” Forman said.

A health official from Pennsylvania, for one, told KHN that his state is actively working with CDC to correct the figures reported on its dashboard.

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