PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — More COVID-19 vaccines are coming. 

On Thursday night, President Joe Biden announced a plan to make all adult Americans eligible for vaccination by May 1.  

In one way, President Biden’s announcement allows vaccine rollouts in other states to be more in line with the South Dakota Department of Health’s original timeline.

“We were excited to see President Biden make that announcement,” Secretary of Health Kim Malsam-Rysdon told KELOLAND News on Friday. “It is clear President Biden is continuing on the success of Operation Warp Speed and we are grateful for that.” 

When vaccinations began in December, the DOH set May as the goal for starting Phase II of the vaccination plan — allowing anyone over the age of 16 to receive a vaccine. Malsam-Rysdon said the state’s strong start to the vaccine rollout gave the DOH confidence Phase II could be reached by May. That confidence has only grown with the federal government’s push for increased allocation. In South Dakota, more vaccines has led to more inoculations. 

The DOH’s first vaccine timeline released on Jan. 13.

Malsam-Rysdon is hopeful President Biden’s announcement continues to speed up vaccinations across the county.

“It is important we see vaccination at a large scale to really beat back this pandemic,” Malsam-Rysdon said. 

For the week of March 5 (158,135 persons) to March 12 (181,530 persons), South Dakota reported 23,395 more persons receiving at least one dose of the vaccine. The seven-day average of persons receiving at least one dose of the vaccine for the first week of March is 23,395, up from the seven-day average of 18,600 in February. Those numbers do not include vaccines given through federal programs like Indian Health Service, Veteran Affairs or the federal pharmacy program (pharmacies like Hy-Vee, Lewis and others). 

When including federal and state allocations, the DOH is estimating 31% of South Dakota’s population has received at least one dose of the vaccine. 

Malsam-Rysdon said people should keep looking at the COVID.SD.GOV website to see where vaccines are available in his or her county. While she isn’t aware of the allocation numbers for federal programs, the state is in communication to have a better idea of how much vaccine is available for people who qualify.   

“We’ve been advocating to understand the bigger picture,” Malsam-Rysdon said. “The pharmacies that are participating have been great to work with. They’ve been great to help us understand that bigger picture.” 

Malsam-Rysdon said the state will see another 1,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine for next week, bringing the state’s allocation up to 26,830 from 25,830 doses. All 66 counties in South Dakota are reporting more than 25 persons receiving at least one dose, with 62 counties reporting more than 100 persons. Minnehaha County, home of the state’s largest population, is reporting 45,953 persons receiving at least one dose. Pennington County (20,707) and Lincoln County (14,549) are the only other two counties over 10,000 persons. 

Distributing vaccines to rural areas was a top priority and concern when the vaccine process started. Malsam-Rysdon pointed out people in rural counties like Harding or Perkins have vaccine options. 

“Just because a person lives in a rural area, they’re not being left behind,” Malsam-Rysdon said. 

And when you qualify to receive a vaccine, health experts have said don’t wait or overthink which one you should get. 

“Take the first shot that is available,” Malsam-Rysdon said. “They are all very effective at preventing hospitalizations and deaths. It’ll protect you and it’ll protect others.”

Mitigation, testing remain important

While there’s been good news about vaccines, the rate of new developments from the pandemic hasn’t slowed. Malsam-Rysdon said new information about coronavirus, treatments and vaccines continue to change “on a very regular basis.” 

That’s why she said it is still important to follow mitigation measures. 

“We still have to do mitigation and we still have to do testing for COVID,” Malsam-Rysdon said. “While vaccines are certainly very exciting and will be really important to see the end of the pandemic, we can’t let our guard down.” 

She specifically called for people to sign up for a COVID-19 test through the DOH online. 

“Testing today looks so different,” Malsam-Rysdon said. “We really want to emphasize that testing remains important. It’s easier than ever.”