COVID-19 Vaccine Operations South Dakota

The South Dakota Department of Health has charged five health systems in overseeing the distribution and administration of the COVID-19 vaccine in their area. The Department of health will oversee the overall distribution. The five systems are Avera, Sanford, Monument, Mobridge Hospital and Northern Plains Health Network.

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Distribution Model

  • South Dakota has divided its 66 counties among five healthcare plans, and tasked each plan with vaccinating every resident in its assigned counties, using well-established courier services. The three main health systems are Avera Health based in Sioux Falls, Monument Health Based in Rapid City, and Sanford Health based in Sioux Falls. During Phase 1 vaccination, South Dakota Department of Health is also working with independent providers, including Prairie Lakes Healthcare System in Watertown and Mobridge Regional Hospital in Mobridge. By leveraging the existing healthcare infrastructure of these systems, South Dakota has been able to vaccinate a relatively higher number than other states. Due to its unique distribution plan, South Dakota has been able to administer 48,698 of the 83,500 doses distributed, translating to 58.32 %.
  • Each provider will have to indicate its ability to comply with vaccine manufacturer instructions regarding cold chain management in order to be allowed to distribute the vaccine. For instance, Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are distributed to Sanford through CVS and Walgreens.

Administration and communication Plan

  • The vaccine administration has been divided into three main phases. Each phase is allocated priority groups. Although the federal government had already established guidelines for determining priority groups, South Dakota broke from those guidelines when defining its first vaccine priority group, adding law enforcement and corrections staff. Additionally, it has added people aged 65 and up, adults with at least two or more medical conditions and front-line workers in schools and colleges to its second priority group.
  • Phase 1 includes “health workers, people living and working in congregate settings, people of all ages with underlying medical conditions that put them at higher risk of severe COVID-193, older adults, teachers and other school staff, funeral service workers, and critical infrastructure workers.” Phase 1 is further divided into five priority groups. SDDOH defined each of these priority groups as:
  • Priority 1a:
    • HCP working in emergency departments, intensive care units, and dedicated COVID-19 acute care units (or frontline staff providing care to COVID-19 patients on general wards in the absence of a dedicated unit)
    • Long-term care staff (nursing home and assisted living) .
    • Priority 1b
  • Priority 1c
  • Priority 1d
    • Persons with 2 or more underlying medical conditions (cancer; chronic kidney disease; COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease); heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, or cardiomyopathies; immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from solid organ transplant; obesity or severe obesity; sickle cell disease; type 2 diabetes mellitus)
    • Teachers and other school/college staff
    • Persons aged 65 years and older
    • Residents in congregate settings, residents in licensed independent living facilities, and residents of licensed group homes
    • Funeral service workers
  • Priority 1e
    • Fire service personnel
    • Other critical infrastructure workers, including water and wastewater, energy, finance, food service, food and agriculture, legal, manufacturing, shelter and housing, transportation and logistics, information technology and communications.
  • The state is responsible for the overall communication of the availability and access of the vaccine. However, each healthcare plan has its method of reaching the target population. In phase one, the state wll use paid traditional and digital media and earned media in partnership with healthcare systems, tribal partners, and organizations serving at risk individual. During this time, the key message will be on educating “the public about the development, authorization, distribution, and execution of COVID-19 vaccines and that situations are continually evolving”, ensuring “public confidence in the approval or authorization process, safety, and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines,” and educating “at-risk populations about vaccine availability and access.”
  • During the second and third phases of the vaccination program when there will be a large number of vaccines available, the state will use paid traditional and digital media and earned media in partnership with healthcare systems, Tribal partners and community organizations. The state will continue to use these channels to communicate about the safety, efficacy, availability and accessibility of the vaccines. Urgent information will be communicated to the public through regularly scheduled media briefings, news releases, and social media channels.
  • During phase two, it is anticipated that the supply of vaccines should be enough to accommodate anyone interested in getting vaccinated. Eventually, the vaccine wll be made available in smaller, more rural clinics and, potentially, at drive-through locations. During phase three, it is anticipated that there will be plenty of vaccine doses and a slower demand for them. The South Dakota Department of Health plans to identify parts of the state that experienced low vaccination rates and hold special vaccination clinics there. Based on this phased approach, the public is not expected to be vaccinated until well into 2021.
  • South Dakota is currently vaccinating patients from the priority group Ic and will start the vaccination of people in group 1D with those 80 and older and high-risk individuals with two or more underlying conditions. The vaccinations of these patients will start on Monday, January, 18. In the coming weeks, the state will move to the rest of group 1D.
  • Each plan has its unique way of communicating to patients about the vaccine. Sanford Health has chosen to use ts already established app to make communication and administration of the vaccine easier. Current Sanford Health patients will receive a My Sanford Chart message, a letter and a call or text message to notify them when the facility is ready for them to set up their vaccine appointment. Patients who are signed up and use the My Sanford Chart app, will be notified through the app. Patients can then make the appointment through the app. Due to the limited supply of the vaccine, patients will not be allowed to make an appointment prior to receiving a notification. On the other hand, Avera Health requires its patients who are currently falling under category 1A or 1C to fill out a form. The patient will then receive feedback on availability and date of appointment within 5-8 business days.
  • Based on the priorities given, each healthcare plan has devised ways to reach their target patients. Avera started by vaccinating those health care workers essential to caring for the sickest patients in Sioux Falls with the Pfizer vaccine. However, for other regional centers in Aberdeen, Mitchell, Pierre and Yankton as well as critical access hospitals, Avera said that they will be vaccinated with Moderna vaccine. Such an administration plan was necessary for the health system to meet the different storage and vaccine integrity requirements needed by each vaccine. Given that few hospitals in South Dakota have freezers capable of storing the Pfizer vaccine, which must be kept at around minus-158 degrees Fahrenheit, it is likely that majority of residents will be vaccinated with the Moderna vaccine.
  • Communication to receive the second dose will also be provided by the state through paid traditional and digital media and earned media. South Dakota will use “media campaign including ads in print publications and radio, as well as a partnership with television and news agencies to remind South Dakotans that a second dose of vaccine will be required at a specific interval. “
  • Each plan will also contact its patients. Patients who receive the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccination series requiring multiple doses for completion will receive one or more reminders. During the first vaccination, personal immunization reminder cards will be provided to the patient on site. Providers will be required to complete these cards with accurate vaccine information, give the card to the patient, and emphasize the importance of bringing the card to subsequent vaccination visits. Although the card will have a provision to include a written reminder, the provider may also give a written appointment card reminding the patient of the next vaccination date. The patient can also be reminded of the subsequent dose by participating in V-Safe .
Glenn is the Lead Operations Research Analyst at The Digital Momentum with experience in research, statistical data analysis and interview techniques. A holder of degree in Economics. A true specialist in quantitative and qualitative research.

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