True number of Covid vaccines given in Netherlands still unknown; Up to 30% of data missing
The overview of the Covid-19 vaccination process in the Netherlands is incomplete and lacking important data, with only about 70 percent of all shots given having been registered in an IT database called CIMS. In their most recent advisory note to the Cabinet, the Outbreak Management Team (OMT) warned that the serious shortfall in data not only makes it impossible to track the true progress of the vaccination program, but it also makes it much more difficult to track minor and serious side effects that emerge after vaccination.
The problem has been managed and dealt with adequately in other countries, but now nearly four months into the vaccination process, the Netherlands still struggles with the problem. “The OMT advises to investigate how a complete COVID-19 vaccination register can be implemented quickly, as has also been realized in other European countries, and calls on all parties involved to provide data to this end,” the document said.
Currently, the RIVM makes an estimate of how many vaccine doses have been administered using a model which based on delivery dates, and whether the vaccines are sent to a facility operated by the GGD municipal health service, a hospital, an institution, or a general practitioner’s office. The model then accounts for a rough estimate of spillage.
Data records regarding which people received a vaccine, which company’s vaccine was they received, and when a vaccine was given are tracked with 28 different computer systems from hospitals, the GGD regions, healthcare institutions and family doctors. In order for that information to be shared with the RIVM’s CIMS system, a vaccine recipient needs to first give consent.
About 92 percent of people who get a vaccine from the GGD give their consent. However, it is “considerably less for vaccinations carried out by other parties,” the OMT said. As a result, the OMT believes that 30 percent of the vaccinations given have not been included in the records submitted to CIMS.
For those who do not give consent, their data can be anonymized and stripped of personally-identifiable information. “Anonymous information about the number of vaccinations taken in people who did not give permission for their information to be passed on to the RIVM for inclusion in CIMS is even less complete,” the OMT stated.
“The OMT urges all parties to provide the necessary data for the national vaccination register CIMS.”
A spokesperson for the RIVM previously told NL Times that its model was the best way it could contend with the issue of missing data. She said this shortly before the agency issued a major revision to its model when Covid vaccine figures were lagging.
The revision released in April showed a sudden 19 percent increase in vaccination numbers. The release of this information coincided with a prime-time press conference given by Health Minister Hugo de Jonge, causing confusion and controversy over the quality of the record keeping.
This week, the RIVM told broadcaster NOS it recognized the issue and agreed that it was essential that the vaccination figures are supplemented. But with millions of vaccination appointments taking place, tracking down the missing information has become improbable. "It concerns hundreds, perhaps thousands of phone calls. That is actually impossible, but it is essential that we receive that data," a spokesperson said.
“The fact that the vaccination data is not yet complete and supplied to the CIMS in a timely manner makes the monitoring, evaluation and adjustment of the vaccination program more difficult, while a reliable view of the vaccination coverage and vaccine effectiveness by region and age, for example, is essential,” the OMT said.
Immunologist Dimitri Diavatopoulos supported the OMT call to action, particularly as it pertains to monitoring side effects. "It may not feel important now, but it is important to keep doing it," he concluded.