SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — South Dakota will open COVID-19 vaccines to those age 65 and older on Monday, Feb. 22, state health officials said Wednesday.

The South Dakota Department of Health has regularly been lowering the age limit for receiving COVID-19 vaccines as the state's vaccination program has progressed and the federal government has boosted the number of vaccine doses its shipping to the state every week. Currently South Dakotans age 70 and older are eligible to get vaccinated against COVID-19, as well as high-risk individuals.

The state is a national leader in administering its shipped vaccine doses, ranking seventh in the nation for doses used, according to a New York Times tracker. The state is among the top states for how many of its population it has injected with the vaccine. About one in eight South Dakotans, 110,759 people, have gotten at least their initial shot of the two-shot vaccines. About half that number has received both needed doses.

“It is exciting that given our orderly and well planned vaccination strategy, coupled with the dedication of our medical professionals across our state, we are in such a strong position when it comes to vaccination efforts,” said Secretary of Health Kim Malsam-Rysdon, in a news release. “These factors, in addition to increased vaccine allocations, has allowed us to progress through Group D efficiently and open up vaccination statewide to those over 65 starting Monday.”

The current vaccination group, Group D, includes those over 65 (effective Monday) and high-risk patients such as those in dialysis, post-transplant and active cancer cases, and high-risk residents in congregate settings, residents of group homes and independent living facilities. Next up in the same group for eligibility: people with two or more underlying medical conditions under the age of 65, teachers and other staff in schools and colleges, and funeral service workers.

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State officials reported Tuesday the weekly shipment of COVID-19 vaccine doses will increase to 17,660 next week. Those doses don't include those administered by federal agencies including the Indian Health Service and Veterans Affairs and the federal pharmacy partner program.

State officials reported another 92 positive cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, raising the state's all-time total to 110,685. Currently hospitalizations ticked up to 92, while active cases to 2,072, the lowest number the state has seen since Aug. 27.

No additional COVID-19 fatalities were reported Wednesday. The state's pandemic death toll stands at 1,844. The state has the seventh worse COVID-19 death toll per capita among U.S. states, according to a New York Times tracker.

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