The time is now

AP file photo

First-dose centers set for April 15 and 22, spaces available

BROOKINGS – Now is the time to get vaccinated. 

That’s the bottom line in the Brookings County Phase 2 Vaccination Plan, released on April 12. The plan’s long-range goal is “herd immunity for COVID-19 that happens when 70 to 90 percent of the population has either survived infection or received the vaccine. Vaccination is a safer path to immunity than infection.”

The county has plenty of vaccine available to keep moving down that path to herd immunity. The challenge right now is to have people sign up and get the vaccine in their arms. 

As of April 13, about 32.7 percent (11,486) of Brookings County residents have received at least one dose of the vaccine. To reach herd immunity, about 24,500 to 31,500 people need to be vaccinated.

Two community vaccination centers (also known as PODs or “points of dispensing”) have been scheduled for the Swiftel Center on April 15 and April 22. Each will have the capacity for 1,500 first-dose COVID-19 vaccinations. The April 15 POD had 1,043 spots filled as of Monday; the April 22 POD had only 82 spots filled.

'Getting out in front'

Eligible to sign up for either of those two dates are South Dakota residents ages 18 or older: visit brookingshealth.org/POD or call 605-692-2811.

For 16- and 17-year-olds, Avera Medical Group is making the Pfizer vaccine available locally. It’s the only vaccine currently approved for that group.

Vaccination clinics for residents 16 years of age and older will be held April 21 and April 22, from 3-5 p.m. each day. Register at www.avera.org/covid-vaccine.

More information about vaccines and their availability in the local area can be found at brookingshealth.org/vaccine.   

“We’re trying to get out in front of it and schedule these things in advance,” said Jason Merkley, president and CEO of Brookings Health System, addressing COVID-19 vaccine availability and administration in Brookings County. He noted that there are “a lot of opportunities to get (vaccines) through local pharmacies or other locations, such as the PODs.”

Time to change gears? 

“What we’ve tried to do is offer the opportunities and certainly would encourage people that now is the time when the vaccine is available,” Merkley explained. “Get out and do what you can to get signed up.

“If the numbers are small in that second POD on April 22, we’ll probably change gears and go in a different direction: maybe just have something small here at the hospital, or work with a clinic or a pharmacy locally here to try to get those people in. We won’t leave those people hanging. But such a small number wouldn’t justify setting up and running a POD.”

Any remaining vaccines not needed could be reallocated via the state’s system.

Merkley and representatives of retail pharmacies come together on a weekly basis via a call with officials dealing with COVID-19 issues at the state level. He sees that local pharmacies are in somewhat the same situation as Brookings Health System.

“It seems like through this week, up to now, they’ve been almost 100 percent filled with their slots (for receiving COVID-19 vaccinations),” he said. “It differs by pharmacy how much allocation they get in.” Vaccinations are available in Brookings at Walmart, Hy-Vee, Lewis Drug, and Brothers Pharmacy.

“Then this week came along and they’re saying, ‘Well, we think we’re going to fill all of our slots, but then next week,’ – which is what we’re seeing with POD two (on April 22) – it really falls off,” Merkley added.

“So we really want to promote the folks that are out there that may want to get (the vaccination) and that haven’t been contacted or they’re on some list or whatever it might be, please reach out, get yourselves scheduled and get a shot.”

He also noted that if after getting through this week’s POD and “only have a couple hundred signed up for next week on the 22nd, … maybe we cut back and see what that means for the future.”

Brookings Health System contributed to this report.

Contact John Kubal at [email protected]

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