SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — If you qualify to get a vaccine, get one. No matter which one it is.
That’s what health officials with the South Dakota Department of Health and Avera Health told KELOLAND News about South Dakotans seeking a vaccine. Starting this week, people who qualify will have access to the newly approved Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine — the third federally approved vaccine — along with vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer.
Avera Dr. David Basel said the most updated information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said there’s no preference between the three vaccines. Dr. Basel said the J&J vaccine trials showed there were no hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19, just like the Moderna and Pfizer vaccine.
“We’re really excited about the Johnson & Johnson vaccine,” Dr. Basel said. “Just having a third one means more supply. We’ll be able to get through people a lot quicker.”
South Dakota Department of Health Secretary of Health Kim Malsam-Rysdon told KELOLAND News J&J vaccine will “be a lot easier for people to become vaccinated.” She also touted the J&J vaccine’s effectiveness at preventing COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths.
“If you can turn a virus like this into something more like a common cold, that’s a good reason to get a vaccine,” she said.
Dr. Basel added along with the J&J vaccine increasing vaccine allocation, both Moderna and Pfizer allocations have been increasing in recent weeks.
Malsam-Rysdon said beyond this week of 25,830 doses, she’s not sure what to expect for further allocation, but added she said she hopes it holds at the level it’s been at. The White House coronavirus response team said on Monday the entire J&J vaccine stockpile is being sent out this week, but J&J is promising 16 million more doses by the end of March.
“We’ve been anxiously awaiting getting more of an allocation because we know South Dakotans want to become vaccinated,” Malsam-Rysdon said. “When we have vaccine available, they are coming in and doing what they need to do to help end this pandemic.”
Along with protecting against the worst effects of COVID-19 after one shot, the J&J vaccine can be more easily stored up to three months at refrigerator temperatures. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines must be stored frozen.
South Dakota remains in Phase 1D of the vaccination plan, with people 65 years and older qualifying for the vaccine. Malsam-Rysdon said the next group of people for Phase 1D will be those people under 65 years old with one underlying health condition.
The list of underlying medical conditions include asthma, cancer, kidney disease, diabetes (type 1 and type 2), heart conditions, hypertension, liver disease, pregnancy and severe obesity. You can see a full list on the DOH website.
“There’s quite a big list of chronic diseases that qualifies. So quite a big number of people will qualify to get vaccinated,” Dr. Basel said. “As always, probably the best way to find out how to get vaccinated is to go to COVID.SD.GOV website.”
Malsam-Rysdon called on people in that group to start getting signed up for a vaccine. To sign up for a vaccine, you must contact a COVID-19 vaccine provider, which is listed by each county.
Number of people getting vaccinated increased in February
An average of 18,600 persons per week received at least one dose in February
Last week, South Dakota reported 22,890 persons received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. For the past month, the state averaged 18,600 persons per week receiving at least one dose.
In February, 73,223 total persons received at least one dose of the vaccine, up from 45,700 total persons in January. Those numbers don’t include federal entities like Indian Health Service, Veterans Affairs or the federal pharmacy program.
On Monday, the DOH is reporting 146,264 persons have received at least one dose of the vaccine and 77,534 have completed the two-dose series. Combining vaccine data from IHS and other federal entities, the DOH estimates 26% of the state’s population has received at least one vaccine dose.
When vaccine supply increases, both Dr. Basel and Malsam-Rysdon said the state will be ready.
“We’ll expect an increase in the future, we just don’t know when,” Malsam-Rysdon said. “We’re seeing more and more ways for people to access a vaccine.”