SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — South Dakota is expecting to get more than 20,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses by the end of the year, a top state health official said Wednesday, Nov. 18.

South Dakota will get "perhaps" 24,000 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, said Kim Malsam-Rysdon, secretary of the state Department of Health.

"There's a bright spot on the horizon, folks, and that's when we have effective vaccines for COVID," she said.

In South Dakota, the COVID-19 vaccine will go first to frontline health care workers who are working with COVID-19 patients, then to long-term care residents, who have proven particularly vulnerable to the virus. Then the vaccine will go to other health care workers and first responders who would come into contact with COVID-19, and finally to the general population, Malsam-Rysdon said

"We're working with health care providers to be able to deploy that vaccine. There are some challenges with logistics, but I know we're up to the task," she said. "I'm really hoping we're seeing vaccinations happening in December."

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Two vaccine makers, Pfizer and Moderna, said in the past week their vaccines were shown to be 95% effective — a welcome high rate of success. Pfizer said earlier this week it has everything in hand to apply for an emergency use authorization from the federal government, the final regulatory step before the vaccine is deployed for public use.

Syringes are seen in front of displayed Biontech and Pfizer logos in this illustration taken Nov. 10. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo
Syringes are seen in front of displayed Biontech and Pfizer logos in this illustration taken Nov. 10. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

The news is particularly welcome in South Dakota, where a simmering COVID-19 pandemic during the summer exploded across the state over the last three months, taxing hospitals and health care workers facing a deluge of new patients.

On Wednesday, the South Dakota Department of Health reported that 30 more South Dakotans had died due to COVID-19, raising the state's pandemic death toll to 674. November is already the deadliest month of the pandemic in the state, with 249 fatalities caused by the virus.

State health officials also reported 95 new hospitalizations, with 593 people hospitalized in South Dakota due to COVID-19, a total just below the record high of 607 set last week.

There are now 19,240 South Dakotans who have tested positive for COVID-19 and are considered able to spread the virus, just below the record high of 19,360 set Sunday.

Thus far in the pandemic, 68,674 South Dakotans have tested positive for COVID-19, or about one in 13 state residents. There are 48,757 who have recovered from the virus.

On Wednesday, state health officials briefed reports on the results of a series of mass-testing events recently conducted or underway in several cities around the state. More than 3,800 people had gotten tested at the events, with 9.8% testing positive for the virus.

Of those who tested positive, only about one in three were experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, said Malsam-Rysdon. While only a snapshot, the low symptomatic rate indicates how widespread the virus may be in the state, spreading via those not showing symptoms of the virus.

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