SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) – South Dakota is moving to Phase 2 of its COVID-19 vaccination process Monday, which means everyone 16 years and older can receive a shot.
Dr. David Basel with Avera Health says that when it comes to COVID-19 vaccinations, many of the higher-risk South Dakota residents have received the shot. Now, it’s time to move to younger populations.
“So we have almost 80 percent of those 65 years and above in South Dakota have now been vaccinated,” Basel said. “And that group has really understood the need for it and how much they’re are risk of it. So we’re actually seeing declining hospitalizations in that age group and we’re seeing almost no, if any, hospitalizations in those that have been fully vaccinated.”
He says the ages of who is ending up in the hospital with COVID-19 have changed.
“The average age of hospitalizations at Avera in November was 68 years,” Basel said. “In March, it was 61 years and so we’re seeing a younger and younger population now that’s coming into the hospital as we get the older ones vaccinated and kind of pull them out of the mix.”
As the state moves to vaccinate people 16 and older, Basel wants to remind younger South Dakotans about why it’s important for them to get protected against COVID-19.
“Understanding the role that they play in spreading it to others even if they don’t get that sick themselves and helping them to understand that,” Basel said.
He also says now is a good time for anyone who has already gotten COVID-19 to get signed up for the vaccine.
“We’re learning that natural immunity from being infected with COVID decreases over time and that it’s not as effective against the newer variants, like the UK variant, which is rapidly becoming the dominant strain in our area,” Basel said. “So vaccine immunity is so important with these newer variants and newer strains that are coming into our area. So even if you’ve had infection with COVID itself in the past, we are strongly, strongly encouraging now that you go ahead and get vaccinated to protect yourself against these variants that we are seeing showing up.”