SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — State health officials and healthcare representatives said the end of the COVID-19 pandemic is in the hands of the public.
Forming a united front, Secretary of Health Kim Malsam-Rysdon and state epidemiologist Dr. Joshua Clayton were joined by doctors from Avera and Sanford as they called for 70% of the state’s population age 16 and older to become vaccinated. Malsam-Rysdon specifically said the state is aiming to get an additional 120,000 people age 16 and above vaccinated.
Malsam-Rysdon told KELOLAND News after Tuesday’s news conference, she believes South Dakota can surpass President Biden’s herd immunity goal for the United States by the Fourth of July. You can see a full interview with Malsam-Rysdon in the video player above.
“I want 70 percent before then,” Malsam-Rysdon said. “I think we can get there. South Dakotans step up. They do the right thing. We’ve seen that. We’ve seen it with vaccinations so far. Now we have vaccine widely available.”
Dr. Clayton said the future of the pandemic comes down to how many people receive the COVID-19 vaccine. He added there continues to be updates from Centers for Disease Control on what vaccinated people should do but noted it won’t be the end of the deadly virus.
“This is something that will be with us,” Dr. Clayton said. “This is going to be a virus that becomes part of our background of infections that we see throughout the United States.”
In total, five different medical doctors spoke at Tuesday’s news conference all supporting South Dakotans to choose to get the COVID-19 vaccine. As of Tuesday, the state department of health is reporting more than 535,000 doses have been administered to 317,780 different persons, not including data from federal entities like Indian Health Service and Veteran Affairs.
People can find places to get the COVID-19 vaccine county-by-county on the state’s COVID-19 website. In Minnehaha County, there’s 28 pharmacy sites along with Avera, Sanford and other community health centers administering vaccines.
“It’s really up to the general public of how this is going,” Avera Dr. David Basel said. “The quicker people get vaccinated, the quicker we are going to open up. It’s really the only path to open up. When will we be able to get back to normal is answered by when will we get enough people vaccinated.”