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Statisticians worry vaccination data is being neglected

Image: Number 10 [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0], via Flickr

Call for clear strategy as Boris Johnson commits to publishing daily data

Statisticians have warned that proper data will be crucial to a successful vaccine rollout in the UK, as the prime minister committed to publishing daily updates on the number of people vaccinated against Covid-19.

The government has promised to vaccinate around 13 million people by mid-February, but researchers have raised concerns over a dearth of precise and up-to-date data on exactly how, where, and to whom the vaccine is being delivered. 

The Royal Statistical Society said such data are required so the vaccination target can be tracked properly and warned of a “sense that there is a lack of preparation around vaccine data” and “a general sense of structural chaos within government”.

In the wake of these concerns, prime minister Boris Johnson said on 5 January that daily updates on vaccine data would be forthcoming.

“I want to give you—the British people—the maximum possible transparency about this vaccine rollout with more detail on Thursday and daily updates from Monday so that you can see day by day and jab by jab how much progress we are making,” he said.

“What we will be trying to do…is break down some of these figures for people so everybody can see which groups are getting the vaccine and how it’s been distributed across the country.”

The Royal Statistical Society welcomed the promise of statistics being available from next week, but added that “the devil will be in the detail”.

For example, it said, there needs to be a process for reporting statistics on who has had the jab segmented by regions and groups, a clear institutional owner for collecting and handling data, as well as a clear way of communicating progress.

“This will be big news in the new year and so now is the time to plan to get it right,” said the society.