After 9,000 doses of vaccines administered over the past 11 weeks, Avera Queen of Peace Hospital in Mitchell is winding down its mass COVID-19 vaccination clinic location.
The Mitchell health care provider will continue to offer COVID-19 vaccinations, but will move those shots to the Avera Grassland Health Campus. Vaccinations for the public have been administered at a location on the Highway 37 bypass in Mitchell on a weekly basis since Feb. 12. The final first-dose clinic at the site will be held Friday, April 30, with second-dose vaccinations continuing at the site through May 21.
The change is being made as demand for the coronavirus vaccine slows down, with about half of Davison County’s residents already vaccinated for COVID-19 thus far. The 65 and older age group has turned out for their turn to get vaccinated, with more than 85 percent of the county’s residents in that demographic receiving the vaccine.
But demand among younger South Dakotans continues to dwindle, despite the need for young adults to get vaccinated to help the state reach a point of herd immunity that would help snuff out the chances that COVID-19 comes back stronger.
After the change in sites, about 12 vaccination slots will be available Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at the Avera Grassland Campus (located at 1900 Grassland Dr.). Vaccination appointments for the Avera Grassland site can be made online at avera.org/covid-vaccine or by calling 605-995-7000. Walk-in vaccinations will be available, but appointments are preferred, said Ryan Raml, Avera Grassland’s director of clinic operations.
If demand increases, Larson said Avera is fully prepared to meet it and get the shots to those that want it. He said the April 23 clinic had 83 first-time doses, and the April 30 clinic is scheduled for 60 first-time doses.
“I hope we still see more demand, and we will be ready for that,” Larson said. “But we need to plan ahead and use the resources wisely.”
Larson said within Avera and around the state, he expects the ordering of more vaccine to be in “on-demand status” going forward, and said they are keeping a close eye on making sure they are not wasting vaccine supplies.
The vaccine is also available at retail pharmacies in Mitchell, including Lewis Drug and Walmart.
The vaccine may soon become available to children ages 12 to 15, Larson noted. Pfizer has completed trials that have demonstrated the vaccine is safe and effective for that age group, and its possible Food and Drug Administration approval could come in the next few weeks.
“We’re still in the footrace against this virus,” Avera Queen of Peace Hospital Chief Medical Officer Dr. Hilary Rockwell said. “It has to be about protecting everyone and it has to be a community effort.”
She said COVID-19 variants make a large portion of the current cases seen in Mitchell, and it’s inevitable that the virus will continue to change. If that happens and the virus poses a more substantial threat to younger individuals, she said the vaccinations become that much more important.
“It’s a matter of time before the variant impacts the younger population,” Rockwell said.
As for the vaccination site, it closes the book on a historic community partnership to help Mitchell get past the pandemic. Avera Queen of Peace and the Mitchell Area Development Corporation made the MADC-owned building at 1308 W. 15th Ave. available for the vaccinations. Larson said he hesitates to ever consider something as perfect, but acknowledged the site ended up “near perfect for what we were trying to accomplish.”
“It really was a huge mobilization of forces,” he said, commending the efforts of Avera employees who worked extra shifts and volunteered their time, along with volunteers from the Mitchell community. “We had great volunteer support and when the ask goes out, we people help us out. It’s a tremendous advantage for our community and I can’t say enough.”