As states expand vaccines, prisoners still lack access


Sumary of As states expand vaccines, prisoners still lack access:

  • Nationwide, less than 20% of state and federal prisoners have been vaccinated, according to data collected by The Marshall Project and The Associated Press..
  • Public health experts widely agree that people who live and work in correctional facilities face an increased risk of contracting and dying from the coronavirus..
  • Prisons are often overcrowded, with limited access to health care and protective gear, and populations inside are more likely to have preexisting medical conditions..
  • This story is a collaboration between The Associated Press and The Marshall Project exploring the state of the prison system in the coronavirus pandemic..
  • And the vaccine rollout has been uneven, despite guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that states should prioritize corrections staff and people in prisons and jails..
  • By the end of March, Arkansas and Florida had not yet begun vaccinating prisoners, while a few states say they have offered vaccination to every adult in their prisons..
  • Even as more vaccines start to become available to corrections systems, prison officials, public health experts and prisoner advocates say there is widespread hesitancy among prisoners over receiving the vaccine..
  • According to the CDC, 40% of adults in the United States have gotten at least one vaccine shot, and President Joe Biden has promised that all Americans will be eligible for vaccination by May 1..
  • That number, about 1.5% of the state prison population, is expected to jump by mid-April when the agency anticipates receiving 2,000 doses per week..
  • she said, adding that the state is asking anyone with “incarcerated friends or loved ones, to encourage them to accept the vaccine when offered.”.
  • In Tennessee, prisoners had to wait months before they could begin receiving the lifesaving dose after an influential state advisory group determined that inoculating them too early could result in a “public relations nightmare”.
  • That decision came although some of the United States’ largest coronavirus clusters were inside Tennessee prisons, with hundreds of active cases in multiple facilities..
  • Tennessee top health officials eventually announced in March that some in the prison population could get the vaccine if they qualified by age or had certain health conditions..
  • To date, about one-third of Tennessee prisoners have tested positive for the virus since the outbreak began to spread..
  • By April 5, more than 6,900 prisoners — out of roughly 19,400 in the state — had received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine..
  • Starting Monday, Tennessee began to allow all residents 16 and older to receive the vaccine, meaning the remaining state prisoners would be eligible..
  • In February, a federal judge ordered Oregon officials to offer the vaccine to all state prisoners, which the state says it has now done..
  • Washington state prisoners filed a similar lawsuit in late March, demanding additional protection from correctional staff who refused the vaccine..
  • Last week, a New York Supreme Court justice ruled that that state must vaccinate all people incarcerated in prisons and jails..
  • After a freezer problem at the Darrington Unit left unrefrigerated hundreds of doses meant for correctional officers, officials offered the vaccine first to staff and then to high-risk prisoners to avoid the doses going to waste..
  • Among the public, information about the COVID-19 vaccine has been publicized by news media, government officials and health care providers..
  • State prisons in Tennessee have displayed posters, distributed informational sheets and held town hall meetings among the prisoners to discuss the vaccine rollout..
  • Fifty-one-year-old Michael McCoy, who is serving a 50-year sentence in Autry State Prison, said a staff member came to his dorm and put the consent forms on a table in the middle of the room…

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