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US prisons to prioritize staff to receive virus vaccine

Prison staff to get vaccine

The federal prison system will be among the first government agencies to receive the coronavirus vaccine, though initial allotments of the vaccine will be given to staff and not to inmates, even though sickened prisoners vastly outnumber sickened staff, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.

Officials at the federal Bureau of Prisons have been instructing wardens and other staff members to prepare to receive the vaccine within weeks, according to people familiar with the matter. The people could not discuss the matter publicly and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.

The internal Bureau of Prisons documents, obtained by the AP, say initial allotments of the vaccine “will be reserved for staff.” It was not immediately clear how many doses would be made available to the Bureau of Prisons.

As of Monday, there were 3,624 federal inmates and 1,225 Bureau of Prisons staff members who have tested positive for COVID-19.

Since the first case was reported in March, 18,467 inmates and 1,736 staff have recovered from the virus. So far, 141 federal inmates and two staff members have died.

There have been more than 12 million cases in the U.S. and over 257,000 deaths. But prisons are a particular concern because social distancing is virtually nonexistent behind bars, inmates sleep in close quarters and share bathrooms with strangers. In the early days of the pandemic, prisoners and staff members said the Bureau of Prisons had run short of even the most basic supplies, like soap.

The internal Bureau of Prisons records obtained by the AP also detail how the agency has been working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Trump administration’s vaccine program, known as “Operation Warp Speed,” to secure the vaccines. The documents say the administration’s initial distribution will include the federal prison system.

Health officials have been warning for more than a decade about the dangers of epidemics for those incarcerated.

Nearly 25% of all inmate cases and 30% of the staff cases have been reported within just the last month. Some staff members said they are apprehensive about receiving the vaccine because of what they feared was a lack of long-term testing and possible side effects.

Though the virus is also rising in state prisons nationwide, any plans for administering doses in those prisons would be handled by the states.



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