SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — South Dakota health officials and leaders of the state's three largest hospital systems stood united to encourage South Dakotans to vaccinate against COVID-19, at a Sioux Falls news conference on Tuesday, April 20.

The South Dakota Department of Health seeks to get at least 70% of state residents 16 and older vaccinated against the virus, to develop herd immunity that would keep the virus from spreading, said state Health Secretary Kim Malsam-Rysdon.

"Questions are normal, but fear and disinformation are not," she said. "And here's the fact: Vaccines are our No. 1 way out of this pandemic, so that we can put this pandemic behind us.

"So let us choose to become vaccinated, and choose to become vaccinated today."

As of Tuesday, about 53% of those eligible in the state have gotten at least an initial shot, with 39% fully vaccinated according to state data. Those are encouraging numbers, but more people need to get vaccinated to reach herd immunity, Malsam-Rysdon said.

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"We've got a ways to go to get there," she said.

Medical leaders from healthcare systems Sanford Health, Avera Health and Monument Health took turns responding to various common COVID-19 vaccine misconceptions and questions, such as:

  • What if I get COVID-19 after getting vaccinated? "If you get COVID after vaccination, the illness is usually very mild," said Dr. Mike Wilde of Sanford Health.
  • Won't I be at risk for virus variants anyway? "COVID vaccines are showing good effectiveness in preventing serious illness, hospitalizations and deaths due to COVID variants," said Dr. Dave Erickson of Avera Health. "Vaccines give you broad COVID antibodies to fight this virus, including the variants."
  • Will the vaccine make me less fertile? "The medical data shows the COVID-19 vaccine does not affect fertility in women," said Dr. Heather Spies of Sanford Health.
  • Should I get the vaccine if I'm pregnant? A pregnant woman who catches COVID-19 and isn't vaccinated could face increased risks and complications if she has underlying conditions, Spies said. "We want to encourage women to consider receiving the COVID vaccine," she said.

  • Do I need a vaccine if I've already had COVID-19? "While it is true you likely have some degree of immunity from being naturally infected with COVID, that immunity we are seeing drops over time," said Dr. David Basel of Avera Health.

  • Shouldn't I wait? Are there enough shots to go around? "We have plenty of vaccine supply now, so it is time to go ahead. It's your turn in line to get vaccinated," Basel said.
  • I'm young. Do I still need the vaccine? COVID-19 is increasingly circulating among younger people who can spread to other people, and "even though you are at lower risk of being hospitalized, you are still at risk for long-term effects," Basel said.
  • I haven't gotten flu shots, so why get a COVID-19 shot? -- South Dakota influenza deaths average about 40-50 a year, while COVID-19 has killed nearly 2,000 this past year, Basel said, "despite all the just incredible efforts we've taken to slow the spread ... but still, COVID just keeps killing and killing and killing."

The following are the state Department of Health COVID-19 case rates, deaths, hospitalizations and vaccinations as of Tuesday. Because all data is preliminary, some numbers and totals may change from one day to the next.

Statewide case rates

  • NEW CASES: 171 (seven-day daily average: 198)
  • TOTAL ACTIVE CASES: 2,078
  • TOTAL CASES: 121,360
  • TOTAL RECOVERED: 117,329

  • DAILY TEST POSITIVITY RATE: 9.4%

Hospitalizations, deaths

  • NEW HOSPITALIZATIONS: 24

  • ACTIVE HOSPITALIZATIONS: 124

  • TOTAL HOSPITALIZATIONS: 7,245

  • DEATHS, NEWLY REPORTED:

  • TOTAL DEATHS: 1,953

Vaccinations

  • INITIAL DOSE ADMINISTERED (IF 2-DOSE VACCINE): 301,484, total: 52.9% of population*

  • FULLY VACCINATED: 236,142, total: 39.5% of population

*(Vaccine dose count based on state distribution. Population percentage includes vaccines given to South Dakota residents through federal programs, including IHS and VA)

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