SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — South Dakota officials are expecting a near-term delivery of thousands fewer COVID-19 vaccine doses than earlier thought, state health officials said Wednesday, Dec. 2, as the state's pandemic death toll neared 1,000.

The South Dakota Department of Health is expecting an initial shipment of about 7,800 doses of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine, said DOH Secretary Kim Malsam-Rysdon. Pfizer's vaccine could receive a crucial emergency use authorization as soon as Dec. 10.

That's significantly fewer than the 24,000 doses Malsam-Rysdon said two weeks ago she "hopefully" expected from the federal government. Malsam-Rysdon said Wednesday the federal government is holding back supplies of the vaccine to ensure those who get the first dose will also receive the second of the two-dose vaccine. That means those 7,800 selected for the first round will be sure to get a second and final dose of the vaccine.

Front-line health care workers, those who deal directly with COVID-19 patients, will be first to receive the vaccine in South Dakota, Malsam-Rysdon said. The state Health Department is working with the state's three largest health systems -- Sanford Health and Avera Health in Sioux Falls, and Monument Health in Rapid City -- as well as hospitals in Watertown and Mobridge to plan delivery of the vaccine to workers.

"We want to make sure that our health care workers who are taking care of our COVID patients have the ability to be vaccinated because we know they're on the front lines and we need them to continue to be able to provide care to people until we're over this pandemic," she said. "That does not necessarily mean all health care workers. This is really first for those folks who are working in the most intense settings, taking care of folks with COVID."

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The initial round of doses won't be enough to vaccinate all front-line workers. Malsam-Rysdon said she is expecting regular weekly shipments of additional vaccine doses, although it's not yet clear in what quantity. Another vaccine-maker, Moderna, is seeking federal emergency authorization for its product, which could significantly boost the number of available vaccines in the coming months.

South Dakota health officials on Wednesday reported 47 additional fatalities in the state due to COVID-19, raising the state's death toll to 995 -- half of whose deaths have been reported in the last 26 days as the virus surged across the state.

There were 1,291 new positive tests reported Wednesday, raising the number of South Dakotans who have tested positive in the state to 82,203 or about one in 11 state residents. South Dakota ranks third highest among states in the number of new cases per capita over the past week, per The New York Times, although the number of newly reported cases has slipped compared to previous weeks.

Meanwhile, the number of active cases, those who have tested positive and are still considered able to transmit the virus, held about steady from the previous day, at 14,859. The number of active cases have plummeted in recent days, indicating the surge of those testing positive is declining. There are 66,351 South Dakotans who have recovered from the virus, up 475 from the previous day.

Hospitalizations also held about steady, at 531 reported Wednesday, with 54 newly reported hospitalizations. The daily hospitalization number has averaged 549 over the past seven days.

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