SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Medical professionals and health care advocates met Tuesday to look into ways to get more South Dakotans to roll up their sleeves and protect themselves from illnesses like the flu and COVID-19. The conference, hosted by the non-profit Immunize South Dakota, is pushing for more public outreach to get more people vaccinated.

These medical professionals are on the front lines of convincing more South Dakotans to get their vaccinations.

“The people that are attending this conference are committed to promoting vaccine confidence,” South Dakota Families for Vaccines Director Allison Alvine said.

Boosting that confidence involves health care providers being up-front with their patients about the latest research into vaccinations.

“I just like to have a conversation with them to let them know about safety profiles. That vaccines are tried and tested, they’ve been around for many years and I like to try to talk about some of those myths that we sometimes come across to say, hey, where are you getting your information? Let’s talk about t the information that’s out there,” Jenifer Wollman with Immunize South Dakota said.

Immunization rates have been declining across the board, whether it’s for childhood illnesses, or the flu or COVID-19. And that has South Dakota’s Secretary of Health concerned.

“I don’t want to see an uptick in polio. I don’t want to see an uptick in measles. I don’t want to see that in a state and in a country where we really are generally healthy because we have had those vaccinations that have been in place for decades now,” South Dakota Secretary of Health Melissa Magstadt said.

Organizers of this conference say many people have been exposed to vaccination misinformation over social media, especially since the onset of COVID-19. But they say the more science-based information providers can share with the public, the more likely vaccination rates will increase in South Dakota.

“It’s life-saving. It’s vital. It’s so important for the safety of our communities,” Alvine said.

Health Secretary Melissa Magstadt says the new RSV vaccine could be a “game-changer” in protecting South Dakotans from the respiratory virus.