South Dakota plans first vaccinations to go to COVID-19 staff and long-term care residents

Capitol News Bureau

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — COVID-19 immunizations will start in South Dakota before 2020 ends, the top person in the state Department of Health said Wednesday.

Secretary Kim Malsam-Rysdon said the federal government will send doses ahead so states are ready to go as soon as regulators approve a vaccine.

“There is a bright spot on the horizon, folks, and that’s when we have effective vaccines for COVID,” she told reporters at the governor’s news conference. “We’re expecting perhaps 24,000 doses.”

The vaccinations will go first to front-line healthcare workers who care for COVID patients in hospitals and long-term care settings, she said, and the next group will include residents in long-term care facilities. From there the effort will expand to other healthcare workers and first responders, and then to the general population.

She said two vaccines in recent weeks have shown high effectiveness: “And so when you’re seeing a vaccine that says ‘I’m over 90 percent effective,’ that’s really big news in the vaccine world. And that is very promising. That means we’re going to see good results once we get that supply here.”

The producers of one vaccine said Wednesday they plan to file an EUA — emergency use authorization — request to the federal government in the coming days, she said. “Once that EUA is requested, the federal government will be deploying, pre-deploying vaccine to states, so that as soon as that EUA is approved for use, we’ll have the vaccine in our states and be able to start vaccinating individuals.”

How soon? “For sure by the end of this year,” Malsam-Rysdon said. “I’m hoping that we’re seeing vaccinations happening in December.”

She delivered similar news Wednesday morning to the Legislature’s Appropriations Committee. The vaccine will be free and administered in two doses either 21 or 28 days apart, and hospitals will oversee administration, she said.

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