SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) – South Dakota’s Department of Health says just 28% of the over 500 thousand vaccinated South Dakotans have received a booster shot.

Dr. Kara Dahl, the president of the South Dakota Medical Association says getting vaccinated and boosted is the first line of defense in protecting yourself from serious COVID-19 infections.

“The best way that we can prevent hospitalization, death and long-term complications is with vaccination,” Dahl said. “So we’re really promoting, if you’ve not been vaccinated or are due for a booster, to get a booster or get vaccinated.”

It’s a conversation nurses and doctors continue to have with their patients.

“We encourage people to ask us questions and we encourage people to reach out to their physicians if they have questions, but it’s tiring to see people continue to say, ‘well I’m not going to get the vaccine,’ when we know that that’s going to help prevent serious, you know, complications from COVID-19, hospitalization and progression of the disease,” Dahl said.

As an ER doctor herself, Dahl says she experiences that tiredness first hand.

“And it’s a very overwhelming feeling sometimes when, you know, we’re seeing people come in sick with COVID and we could’ve helped prevent that,” Dahl said. “And I think that that’s really, you know, a resounding feeling, at least in the emergency department, is we wish that we could do more to help people get vaccinated. We wish that we could help more people from even getting sick from COVID-19.”

Dr. Dahl says the second line of defense against COVID-19 is wearing masks and the third is having good hygiene practices. While KN-95 and N95 masks offer the best protection, Dahl says surgical masks and double masking works well too.

“So if you have the ability or have access to a KN95 or a N95, that’s preferred,” Dahl said. “Especially if you have immuno suppression or you have some chronic medical conditions that predispose you to more serious complications if you do get an illness.”

And with how contagious the Omicron variant is, Dahl wants to also remind people to stay home when feeling sick, even if their symptoms are mild.

“It may be mild in you but it might not be mild in someone else,” Dahl said. “And it may be mild now, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you might not have a complication from it. You can still develop a blood clot, you can still develop, you know, whether it’s a clot in the lungs or in the brain. I mean, you can still go on to have progression of disease even if you have a mild case of COVID-19.”