Gov. Kristi Noem was in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday meeting with U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar just a couple of hours after Azar confirmed a $2 billion plan to vaccinate 100 million Americans against COVID-19.
“South Dakota took a different path to fight #COVID19. This morning, I shared our story with @SecAzar. And he gave me good news about progress towards a vaccine,” Noem stated on Wednesday via Twitter.
Though South Dakota’s problems are relatively small compared to those experienced in more populous states, the concerns continue. Therefore, Noem took her case directly to the nation’s capital.
“It was great meeting with @govkristinoem today at the @WhiteHouse for an update on the Coronavirus in South Dakota,” Vice President Mike Pence tweeted on Wednesday. “I ensured her that we will make sure South Dakota has whatever it needs to protect the health and safety of its people as we face this virus together as a nation.”
On Wednesday, South Dakota Department of Health officials showed the state had surpassed the 100,000-mark for completed COVID-19 tests. Approximately 8% of those tested have been confirmed as infected.
As of Wednesday, COVID-19 was responsible for 119 deaths in South Dakota, with the national total for fatalities attributed to the coronavirus reaching 141,677.
As people continue dying, while others struggle with the related impacts of COVID-19, Azar and officials with pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Inc. announced their vaccination strategy. Another company, BioNTech SE, is working with Pfizer on the project.
“Americans will receive the vaccine for free consistent with U.S. government’s commitment for free access for COVID-19 vaccines,” the joint news release states.
Azar said this is part of the government’s Operation Warp Speed program, which endeavors to begin delivering 300 million doses of a vaccine for COVID-19.
“Expanding Operation Warp Speed’s diverse portfolio by adding a vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech increases the odds that we will have a safe, effective vaccine as soon as the end of this year,” Azar stated in the news release. “Depending on success in clinical trials, today’s agreement will enable the delivery of approximately 100 million doses of this vaccine to the American people.”
The agreement also allows the U.S. government to acquire up to an additional 500 million doses of the vaccine.
“We’ve been committed to making the impossible possible by working tirelessly to develop and produce in record time a safe and effective vaccine to help bring an end to this global health crisis,” Pfizer Chairman and CEO Dr. Albert Bourla stated about the plan. “We are honored to be a part of this effort to provide Americans access to protection from this deadly virus.”
This news on a vaccine came only two days after another pharmaceutical power player, AstraZeneca, joined Oxford University to announce a possible breakthrough for a vaccine against COVID-19. According to an AstraZenaca news release, the research involved 1,077 healthy adults ranging in age from 18 to 55.
AstraZeneca claims that 91% of those who received the vaccine saw neutralizing activity against the virus that creates COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) one month after receiving the treatment, while 100% saw action against the virus after receiving a second dose.