SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — The first shipment of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine was delivered to the Sanford USD Medical Center in Sioux Falls on Tuesday, Dec. 15.

Sanford Health was given 3,900 doses of the vaccine, with more scheduled each week. Frontline health care workers will be the first South Dakotans to receive the vaccine Tuesday, while the state has prioritized the order in which people will receive the vaccine when it is more readily available.

Other essential workers and long-term care residents and staff will follow, according to the South Dakota Department of Health’s target populations for vaccination. Next will be those with underlying medical conditions and people over the age of 65.

The news comes as the DOH reported fewer than 400 cases for the second consecutive day, although less than 1,000 people were tested for the second straight day. Of the 735 people tested, 345 returned positive, for a percentage of 46.9%, the highest in a week.

Active cases fell for the fifth consecutive day, with 11,519 statewide. Meanwhile, two new deaths were reported to bring the state’s total to 1,261.

Newsletter signup for email alerts

COVID-19 continues to disproportionately impact the elderly community in South Dakota, with people over the age of 60 accounting for 92.1% of deaths, despite having 21.8% of cases.

Many of those deaths occured in nursing homes and Sanford has announced it will begin vaccinating long-term care workers this week. Staff at three Good Samaritan Society locations and two additional nursing homes will be the first scheduled to be vaccinated.

The Pfizer vaccine was given emergency authorization by the Food and Drug Administration for people older than 16 and has shown to be 95% effective during ongoing trials.

“The U.S. has completed a rigorous regulatory and approvals process with unprecedented scrutiny and the data are clear that this vaccine is safe and effective,” Jeremy Cauwels, Sanford chief physician, said in a news release. “There is light at the end of the tunnel but we must continue to stay vigilant. Vaccines don’t save lives, vaccinations do.”

As a public service, we’ve opened this article to everyone regardless of subscription status. If this coverage is important to you, please consider supporting local journalism by clicking on the subscribe button in the upper righthand corner of the homepage.