‘Now is the time to take this window of opportunity’: South Dakota officials emphasize importance of vaccine

State Secretary of Health Kim Malsam-Rysdon speaks about the COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday, April 20, 2021, at the Washington Pavilion Visual Arts Center in Sioux Falls.

More than 50% of the eligible population in South Dakota have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine in South Dakota, but the Department of Health is urging those who haven’t gotten a shot to sign up for one. 

The Department of Health, Avera Health and Sanford Health held a joint news conference on Tuesday afternoon at the Washington Pavilion to discuss the benefits of the vaccine and the misconceptions surrounding it. 

“Today we are coming together as a united front and asking you and your loved ones to join us in our continued COVID-19 vaccination efforts,” DOH Secretary Kim Malsam-Rysdon said. 

More:South Dakota reports no new COVID-19 deaths on Monday, hospitalizations rise

As of Tuesday, the state has administered a total of 537,671 doses of the vaccine to over 317,000 residents 16 or over. That makes up 53% of the state’s eligible population having received at least one dosage. 

Health officials on Tuesday re-emphasized the effectiveness of the vaccines.

State epidemiologist Dr. Joshua Clayton speaks about the COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday, April 20, 2021, at the Washington Pavilion Visual Arts Center in Sioux Falls.

State Epidemiologist Dr. Joshua Clayton said while side effects of getting the vaccine include tiredness, pain at the injection site, chills, and fever, it is the best protection against COVID-19 and the possibility of severe infection. 

Whether people feel naturally immune from previously contracting the virus or feel that they might be low risk because of age, the safest route remains getting vaccinated, Vice President of Clinical Quality for Avera Medical Dr. Dave Erickson said. 

“That immunity drops over time, variants and mutations are coming, so that level from natural immunity is not enough,” he said. “Vaccinations increase that immunity to a higher level and keeps it there for a longer length of time.”

Dr. Heather Spies, an OB-GYN at Sanford Health, said she has heard from some pregnant women that they are concerned about getting the vaccine, but she said there is strong evidence that getting the vaccine helps the overall health of the woman and baby. 

More:How Sioux Falls and 2 similar cities have navigated life differently in a COVID world

“There have been new studies showing that women who have been vaccinated may also be passing antibodies to their babies,” she said. 

Vaccine shortage is not an issue, according to Erickson. The state has a plentiful supply and he said it is everyone’s turn to get in line and get vaccinated.

With a statewide goal of getting 70% of the state’s population to reach herd immunity, Malsam-Rysdon said it falls on all our shoulders. 

“Vaccines are the number one out of this pandemic so that we can put it behind us,” she said. “Let’s choose to become vaccinated today.”

Dr. David Basel with Avera Health speaks about the COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday, April 20, 2021, at the Washington Pavilion Visual Arts Center in Sioux Falls.

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