ASHH Shares Progress On Local Vaccination Effort

Hospital officials at Yankton’s Avera Sacred Heart Hospital (ASHH) want to give you a shot in the arm.

Exactly when that can happen depends on the federal government’s ability to obtain vaccine, Liz Healy, ASHH vaccination coordinator told the Press & Dakotan.

“The major health systems in the state of South Dakota are all are following the state Department of Health (DOH) vaccination plan,” she said. “On Jan. 13, the DOH came out and announced that on Monday, Jan. 18, they would start vaccinating prioritized population group 1d within that state vaccine plan.”

The state’s priority vaccination plan posted on the DOH website divides the Priority 1 population into five subgroups rated a-e. Group 1a is comprised mostly of front-line health care workers and long-term care facility staff, while group 1b includes long-term care and assisted living residents.

“That plan was based on the understanding that the federal government had planned to release the coronavirus vaccine doses held in reserve for a second shot to the states to help speed up vaccinations nationwide,” Healy said. “Just a couple of days after that announcement, we found out that actually no reserve existed.”

The state was still working on the 1c vaccine population — which includes other healthcare workers, public health workers, emergency medical technicians, law enforcement and correctional officers — when the discovery was made, she said.

“So that’s where we’re at right now,” Healy said. “We are working very diligently to finish up all of our friends in that 1c priority. We hope to have that done by next week, and then we are working and planning on moving to group 1d.”

Target group 1d includes individuals with two or more specific underlying medical conditions, educational facility staff, individuals age 65 years and older, residents in congregate settings, licensed independent-living facilities and licensed group homes, and funeral service workers.

“At this point, Avera Sacred Heart has given close to 2,000 vaccines in that priority 1a and 1b. Remember, our vaccine territory also includes Union County,” she said.

ASHH’s long-term-care pharmacy has been helping with vaccinations of long-term care residents and assisted-living residents, and has given more than 2,000 vaccine shots. ASHH will begin second vaccine doses this week, Healy said.

“I think it’s important to note that we don’t have any vaccines sitting in our freezers. We are not sitting on any vaccine. It is a supply issue,” she said. “As soon as the state allocates Avera to receive vaccine, we are creating clinics and dispensing that vaccine as fast as we can.”

Also, there have not been any severe reactions to the vaccine.

“We have had great luck,” she said. “We have had some local side effects which we were aware of: a sore arm or a little bit of redness over the injection site that tends to resolve within 24 hours.”

The CDC recommends that anyone receiving the vaccine download V-safe, a smartphone-based app that uses text messaging and web surveys to provide personalized health check-ins after an individual receives a COVID-19 vaccination. Depending on how you answer, the CDC may contact you. It also reminds you about your second dose, she said.

According to Healy, another issue that will affect timely distribution of doses is that ASHH won’t know from one week to the next how many doses the state will send.

“One week, we may get 1,000 vaccine doses. The next week, we may only get 200.” she said. “I have found that we very much have to be flexible. We have to have a little bit of grace.”

Hospital administrators hope that once group 1d vaccinations begin, the volume of vaccine received may be more consistent, she said.

Even so, group 1d is much larger than previously vaccinated groups and could take some time to work through.

“According to the state, in 1c there were almost 50,000 people. In 1b, they estimate that there are 265,000 people,” Healy said. “In addition, a lot of these are elderly people that maybe don’t have great access to internet, so Avera is doing a number of things to make sure that nobody slips through the cracks.”

Beginning Tuesday, Healy said, Avera began a mail and email campaign to contact residents in its database. Soon, local health clinics will also have the relevant information available to respond to the increasing volume of calls regarding COVID vaccination, Healy said.

“I love the enthusiasm for the vaccine,” she said. “I know that so many people are looking forward to it.

“Our goal, when we move into the 1d priority, is to make sure that we offer a vaccine to any person in Yankton County or Union County that would like one.

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At this time, the vaccine is free and Avera is not charging an administrative fee. For more information or to access Avera’s vaccination web form, visit www.avera.org/services/primary-care/immunizations/covid-19-vaccine/.

Immunization of South Dakota groups 1a-c will continue to be given priority as the rollout through 1d continues.

Nebraska residents should visit the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services website at www.dhhs.ne.gov/Pages/Coronavirus.aspx.

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