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Health Department outlines phases for COVID-19 vaccine distribution across South Dakota
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Health Department outlines phases for COVID-19 vaccine distribution across South Dakota


All three major hospital systems in South Dakota and two rural hospitals received COVID-19 vaccines from the state’s allotment of 7,800 doses of the Pfizer vaccine Tuesday, the Department of Health (DOH) reported.

Monument Health received one box of 975 doses and had already vaccinated 160 people by Tuesday afternoon, with half going to Monument’s caregivers and half to employees of long-term care centers in Pennington County. Spokesman Dan Daly said the hospital system will likely administer the entire first shipment by the end of the week.

Across the state, Avera received 2,925 doses Monday and Sanford Health received 3,100 doses from the DOH Tuesday. The Prairie Lakes hospital in Watertown received 700 doses, and the Mobridge hospital received 100 doses.

The state has laid out the following phases for distribution of the vaccines, noting the state is currently in Phase 1A after a handful of front line health care workers across the state received their first doses Monday.

  • Phase 1A: front line health care workers (working in an emergency department, ICU, COVID-19 unit or general acute care) and long-term care facility health care workers;

  • Phase 1B: long-term care residents (nursing home and assisted living);

  • Phase 1C: other health care workers, including laboratory and clinic staff; public health workers; emergency medical services; law enforcement; correctional officers;

  • Phase 1D: persons with 2 or more underlying medical conditions (cancer, chronic kidney disease, COPD); heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, or cardiomyopathies; immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from solid organ transplant; obesity or severe obesity; sickle cell disease; type 2 diabetes mellitus. Also in Phase 1D are teachers and other school/college staff, persons aged 65 years and older, residents in congregate settings, residents in licensed independent living facilities, residents of licensed group homes and funeral service workers;

  • Phase 1E: fire service personnel and other critical infrastructure workers, including water and wastewater, energy, finance, food service, food and agriculture, legal, manufacturing, shelter and housing, transportation and logistics, information technology and communications.

The state has mentioned additional phases beyond Phase 1A through 1E. If South Dakota moves to Phase 2, for example, it would indicate that a large number of vaccine doses are available and that the supply is likely to meet the demand.

Health officials like Dr. Shankar Kurra, vice president of medical affairs at Monument Health, have repeatedly stated vaccines may not be widely available to the public until late spring and for people to continue masking and social distancing to reduce the spread of COVID-19 until that time.

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State health secretary Kim Malsam-Rysdon said the DOH has been working and preparing for the vaccine’s arrival for months.

“Operation Warp Speed was essential not only in its vaccine delivery to states but in its safe manufacturing, following all health and safety protocols,” Malsam-Rysdon said. “We look forward to working with our partners across the state to administer the vaccine in an organized and prioritized manner to all South Dakotans.”

Malsam-Rysdon said Tuesday she expects 14,600 doses of Moderna’s vaccine will arrive in the state next week, pending formal FDA emergency use authorization. She said she expects the vaccine will be distributed within the health care systems in a similar prompt manner.

In a call with health care providers Tuesday, the DOH also said it expects to publish more data on its COVID-19 data dashboard this week. State epidemiologist Joshua Clayton gave a preview of what the data might look like when it’s public, and said the data will be updated daily with information from the South Dakota Immunization System.

The dashboard will show information on how many people have received their first and/or second dose, the number of people vaccinated statewide, and will show a breakdown of how many people have been vaccinated in each county. Another pie chart will show how many people from each population detailed in the state’s phased plan have been vaccinated.

Health officials also said in the call that health care providers who don’t live in South Dakota but work in a South Dakota clinic or hospital can still get the COVID-19 vaccine here if they wish.

The DOH said it’s not “saving” vaccines for the second dose, rather Operation Warp Speed has guaranteed the second dose will be held back and shipped to the state to ensure all those who have had their first dose can get their second dose within 21 days when it’s due.

Tim Heath, an immunization specialist with the DOH, said in the two-dose series for the Pfizer vaccine specifically, the second dose can be given four days early, meaning anywhere from day 17 to 21. If a person misses their second dose on time in 21 days, they can get it as soon as possible but should not repeat doses.

“We’re going to be on a slow burn here getting small amounts of vaccine for a while, but it will ramp up as we run through the priority populations and eventually get to the general population,” Heath said on the call.

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