Dozens of local heath care workers have received vaccinations against COVID-19 as both the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe and Avera Health started giving the shots last week.
The tribe’s clinic received its first shipment Dec. 21, two days ahead of schedule and started inoculating workers the next day, said Cynthia Jacobs, chief executive officer. The tribe has the first dose of vaccines for all 64 of its health care workers, and most employees have indicated they will get the shots.
“I didn’t sense a whole lot of vaccine hesitancy,” she said. “We’re staging it so we’re giving 10, 10, 10. Our first 10 went very smoothly.”
Avera Flandreau received its shipment on Dec. 23 and inoculated 22 people that day and 22 on Christmas Eve, finishing up the doses it received on Monday. Administrator Scott Hargens said the vials had more doses in them than planned so they received enough vaccine for about 100 people.
Each vial of the Moderna vaccine typically contains 10 doses but some had 11 or 12 in them, he said. In addition to Avera health care workers and long-term care workers at Riverview Healthcare Center, the hospital has been able to reach out to additional people who work in assisted living and to local law enforcement. When this batch is gone, Avera will get a second dose to administer to those same people in 28 days.
Hargens has not been told when residents in the community might start receiving the vaccinations. “We are following the South Dakota Department of Health priority checklist of who gets it,” he said.
At the FSST clinic, staff didn’t want to vaccinate all employees at once in case there were reactions that would keep people home from work and lead to a worker shortage, Jacobs said. But so far, that hasn’t been the case. Hargens said no one at Avera reacted substantially as well.
Overall, the county as of Monday had 66 people who have been vaccinated, including some who work outside of the county and would have been given the shot at their medical jobs, according to the state.
Receiving the vaccine is voluntary, and more than 85 percent of employees are initially interested at the tribal clinic, Jacobs said. Once health care workers are vaccinated, she expects the next groups will be essential workers and those who are ages 65 and older and vulnerable with an underlying medical condition. Indian Health Services have asked the tribe for the number of people in those categories.
“When we will receive it, we don’t know. But they have taken our numbers,” she said.
The vaccination arrives in Flandreau at the same time that the number of positive cases of COVID-19 in the county is decreasing.
State Department of Health numbers as of Monday show that seven additional people tested positive for the virus in Moody County compared with the same time last week. That is only a fraction of the number of people who were getting the disease within the last two months when dozens tested positive each week.
Twenty-three people tested this past week, also a much smaller number than tested previously each week.
State data shows there have been 527 total positive cases in the county, and 36 remain active, with 477 recovered. In addition, 1,578 tests have been negative, 34 people have been hospitalized and 14 people have died in the county.