South Dakota health officials are preparing to distribute vaccinations for COVID-19 as early as next month.
It’s unclear if any current trials will have a vaccine available by then, but federal authorities are telling states to get ready.
Secretary of Health Kim Malsam-Rysdon says the vaccine will go out in three phases.
“The first phase will focus on healthcare workers and first responders. Then as more vaccine becomes available we will be able to vaccinate at-risk populations, including individuals with underlying health conditions," she explains. "And then when the vaccine is more readily available, we expect the population at large to become vaccinated.”
Malsam-Rysdon expects 23,000 healthcare workers will get a vaccine in the first phase. The Department of Health is also working with tribal groups on vaccine distribution.
There’s no telling which of the 49 clinical trials will produce a vaccine first, or if the state can expect one by mid-November.
“This is being ready for a vaccine as of November 15th," says Malsam-Rysdon. "So as soon as it is in fact available we will be ready to vaccinate. And that’s what our federal partners are asking us to do.”
The Department of Health is encouraging people to get their flu vaccine in the meantime. State epidemiologist Josh Clayton says getting a flu vaccine can help safeguard health supplies and hospital bed capacity into the winter months.
Health officials say people should continue to social distance, wash hands and wear a mask until a COVID vaccine is widely available.