South Dakota health officials debunk common vaccine misconceptions

Effort continues to vaccinate state's population

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – South Dakota health officials across the state come together to discuss vaccine hesitancy among residents, encouraging people to choose to get vaccinated and debunking common misconceptions for opting out.

The State Department of Health and three major healthcare systems – Avera, Monument, and Sanford – say 53% of all eligible South Dakotans have received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine but the state has a long way to go until the population can reach herd immunity at 70%.

Hesitancy has become an increased challenge, especially as the Johnson and Johnson Vaccine distribution was paused by the FDA and CDC until they have a chance to review the six cases of blood clots linked to the single-dose vaccine. None of the cases were in South Dakota and the cases attribute for less than one in one million people.

They say people who are resisting the vaccine are doing so for a variety of reasons such as:

  • “I have already gotten COVID and I have tested positive for the antibodies”
    • “If you’ve had COVID or you’ve been tested and are positive for antibodies you still need to be vaccinated,” said Dr. David Erickson, Chief Medical and innovation Officer for Avera.
    • “That [natural] immunity drops overtime,” said Dr. David Basel, Vice President of Clinical Quality for Avera Medical Group. “The level of protection from natural immunity is not enough. Vaccination increases that level of immunity to a much higher level and keeps it up there for a longer period of time.”
  • “I am pregnant, trying to become pregnant, or am a nursing mother”
    • “We want to encourage women to consider receiving the COVID vaccine. Reach out to their providers if they do have questions,” said Dr. Heather Spies, OB/GYN at Sanford Health. “Medical data shows that the COVID-19 vaccine does not affect fertility in women. There have also been new studies that show promise that women that were vaccinated during their pregnancies are passing antibodies to their babies in utero and also to their babies in their breast milk. So, not only is the COVID vaccine going to protect mom but its also going to add a layer of protection from COVID-19 for her baby.”
  • “I am low-risk of being hospitalized from COVID-19”
    • State Epidemiologist Dr. Josh Clayton says the average age of infection continues to drive down in the most recent months meaning more and more young adults are testing positive.
    • “Even though you are a lower risk of being hospitalized, you’re still at risk for long-term effect of that,” said Dr. Basel. “We see plenty of younger patients that are having the mild COVID symptoms or taking a long time to get back their taste and smell. It’s important to get that group vaccinated to protect their friends and their families who they might spread it to.”
  • “Will the COVID-19 vaccine alter my DNA?”
    • SD Secretary of Health Kim Malsam-Rysdon says this is not true. According to the CDC, COVID-19 mRNA vaccines do not enter the nucleus of the cell where genetic material is kept.
  • “I don’t get the flu after skipping my flu shot every year, why do I need the COVID-19 vaccine?”
    • According to Dr. Clayton, 40x the number of deaths that occurred in South Dakota last year are attributed to COVID-19 compared to the flu. As of April 20, 1,953 South Dakotans have died from COVID-19 related complications. Two people have died this past season from the flu, though health officials attribute the low numbers to increased health protections taken in the fight against COVID-19. In an average year, 39 people die from influenza.
  • “Why get the vaccine now if the virus is mutating?”
    • “We want to get ahead of these variants because they can spread faster and cause more severe illness,” said Dr. David Erickson, Chief Medical and innovation Officer for Avera.”COVID vaccines are showing that they prevent serious illness, hospitalizations and deaths due to COVID variants. They give you broad antibodies to fight the virus including the variants. If you do get COVID due to a variant, it would likely be a much milder case like the common cold rather than the severe illness. Variants require a higher number of antibodies produced by your immune systems to fight it off and the COVID vaccine produces antibodies in higher concentrations and longer durations than your natural immunity and thus the vaccine offers you greater protection.”

For some residents who’ve received the first dose of the vaccine and are opting to not get the second, health experts say you should reconsider.

“That second dose is really the one where we see, in those two vaccines, where we really see the antibody level jump up to that high level and stay there,” said Dr. Basel.

Basel explains that he still sees hospitalizations occur due to COVID-19 when patients are in-between their first and second doses. For patients who have seen strong reactions to the first dose, Basel says that’s good.

“That’s a good indication cause that reaction is your immune system ramping up to recognize and fight off that vaccine and you’re likely to have very high protections after the second shot so please, please go get that second shot,” said Dr. Basel.

Common symptoms to all vaccines include pain at the injection site, tiredness, headache, fever, fatigue, body aches and chills.

All of the state’s officials speaking Tuesday say vaccines are readily available, more-so than ever.

“Pharmacies across the state have health care centers, the Indian health service, Veteran’s Administration,” said Secy. Malsam-Rysdon. “It’s never been more convenient and we need to get more shots in arms to get that herd immunity and put this pandemic behind us.”

A person is still considered at risk for COVID-19 until two weeks have passed since a person’s final dose.

As information about the virus continues to emerge, Malsam-Rysdon says to continue to make sure the source of your information is valid. The Dept. of Health, CDC, and local health system websites are good sources of information.

Categories: Coronavirus, Local News, South Dakota News