Covid-19 in Bulgaria: State IT firm admits ‘inaccuracy’ in reported vaccination figures

Bulgaria’s state-owned IT firm Informatsionno Obsluzhvane said on July 27 that the sharp increase in the number of people who have completed their Covid-19 vaccination cycle, entered into the country’s national information system a day earlier, was due to an “inaccuracy” in how it was counting the one-jab Janssen vaccine.

The spike, first reported by public broadcaster Bulgarian National Television (BNT), showed the number of people with completed vaccination cycles rising from 897 482 (reported on the morning of July 26) to 1 033 652, before being adjusted again to 965 567 in the late afternoon.

BNT said that Bulgaria’s Health Ministry was unable to explain the change and sought clarification from Informatsionno Obsluzhvane, which maintains the national Covid-19 information system.

According to the company, the Janssen jabs were counted towards the number of people with completed vaccination cycles in individual districts, but not the country as a whole. Bulgaria began administering the Janssen vaccine on May 11.

In effect, this caused a discrepancy between the total figure showed in the national information system’s daily statistics and the actual sum of the figures in all districts.

The error was noticed on July 26. Informatsionno Obsluzhvane said it was corrected the same day and apologised for the “inaccuracy”, saying that it had taken the necessary steps to prevent future discrepancies in the vaccination data.

Pattern of mismatched numbers
Although this was the largest and most noticeable adjustment in numbers reported by the national information system, The Sofia Globe’s review of daily vaccination numbers showed that discrepancies were a routine occurrence.

Each day, the system records the shots administered in the past 24 hours and the total number of jabs – both first and second shots – since vaccination began on December 27 2020.

Most days, the sum of the number of vaccines administered over the previous 24 hours and the total reported on the previous day is higher than the total number of jabs reported on that day by the system.

To illustrate, on July 27 the system reported that 8538 jabs were administered over the previous 24 hours and the total number of vaccine shots at 1 976 628.

However, on July 26, the total number of shots reported by the system was 1 968 095 – a difference of 8533, meaning there were either five fewer vaccine shots administered than reported, or the total number was incorrect.

In the past week, five days showed such discrepancies – 21 on July 21, 23 on July 22, 11 on July 23 and five on July 24. The daily vaccine figures reported on July 25 and 26 added up correctly to the totals recorded in the system.

The Sofia Globe’s review of daily vaccination numbers shows such discrepancies as far back as March, but what were previously occasional occurrences became an established trend in late spring – starting May 21, such discrepancies were found on 55 of the past 68 days.

This period largely overlaps with the current caretaker Cabinet taking office on May 12.

With one notable exception, daily vaccination numbers appear to be inflated by fewer than 30 on any given day (the largest, a discrepancy of 50, was recorded on May 22).

The exception was on June 7, when the discrepancy was much higher and went the other way. On that day, the system reported 4929 vaccines administered in the previous 24 hours and a total of 1 464 251 jabs.

But on June 6, the total in the system was 1 456 841, meaning a difference between the two days of 7410 – significantly higher than the 4929 jabs reported by the system for the 24 hours that followed.

For the rest of The Sofia Globe’s continuing coverage of the Covid-19 situation in Bulgaria, please click here.

The Sofia Globe’s coverage of the Covid-19 situation in Bulgaria is supported by the Embassies of Switzerland and Finland.

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Alex Bivol

Alex Bivol is the Deputy Editor-in-Chief of The Sofia Globe.