South Dakota health systems prepared to offer COVID-19 vaccines to kids 5-11 when eligible

Published: Oct. 20, 2021 at 6:48 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Wednesday the White House unveiled its plans to roll out COVID-19 vaccines for young children.

The Biden administration says it has secured enough supply to vaccinate 28 million children ages five to 11. They are waiting on the Food and Drug Administration to authorize vaccines for that age group.

In South Dakota, health experts are already preparing for when the vaccine does become available for those in that age range.

Dr. Jeremy Cauwels, the Chief Physician at Sanford Health says thanks to the vaccine availability, they are able to maintain a vaccine supply in all of their clinics. So, when the FDA does approve the vaccine for those aged 5-11, they will be ready.

“I’m looking forward to the possibility of partnering with schools or other agencies around town to vaccinate more kids if that’s helpful, but I think we will be able to handle a good bit of the numbers simply by making sure they know where our local clinics are and how to get to them,” said Cauwels.

Dr. Charles Chima, Sioux Falls Director of Public Health, says the vaccine being made available to more people will bring us one step closer to having our lives return to normal.

“It will be a big deal because we estimate if you look at the two-county area Minnehaha and Lincoln County kids aged 5-11 probably make up about close to 10% of the population,” said Chima.

The impact of younger kids being vaccinated will not only be seen for that age group, but for everyone.

“Leaving a reservoir of someplace the disease can circulate freely with no hindrance by vaccination or otherwise leaves a population as a whole open to the continued circulation of a virus,” said Cauwels.

Right now, the vaccination rate for Minnehaha and Lincoln counties is sitting at about 57%, but the goal is to get that percentage higher.

“We really want to see that much higher, probably closer to 80%, if possible,” said Chima. “70-80%, and we will feel much stronger about the level of our community protection, so if you add another 10 percent of our population and make them eligible and most of them get a shot, that really gets us closer to where we want to be.”

The White House is expecting the vaccine to be available for kids aged 5-11 in early November. Until then health experts in Sioux Falls plan to continue finding out what barriers are stopping residents here in South Dakota from getting the vaccine.

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