Both federal prisoners will have the ability to obtain a vaccine by mid-May, according to Federal Prison Bureau director Michael Carvajal.
Vaccines have since been made available to all federal prison employees, he said in a Thursday hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
More than 40,000 inmates in federal jails have received both doses of the vaccine, the official reports, about one-third of people in BOP custody. Completely vaccinated almost 18,000 federal prison employees.
Around 66 percent of federal inmates approved vaccination invitations, Carvajal said. According to the new Kaiser Family Foundation poll, that figure is marginally higher than the 61% of Americans who claim they either have a vaccine or are willing to get one.
Despite vaccine skepticism among correctional officers, Carvajal stated that slightly more than half of BOP employees have accepted invitations to the vaccine. He added the figure does not account for workers seeking vaccines elsewhere.
“We encourage workers to take it, but also because it’s not necessary, we value their decision,” he said.
Around 126,000 people are currently incarcerated in BOP-run prisons, the lowest in 20 years. Until 2020, the population was already decreasing, a pandemic-hurried occurrence as pressure mounted to release some prisoners into home confinement to decrease their risk of contracting COVID-19.
The pandemic was a nightmare for prisoners. Since last March, people in hospitals and prisons around the country have confirmed conditions that were terribly conducive to the spread of the virus: large numbers of people in communal, indoor spaces; shortage of essential PPE like masks and soap; symptomatic people left isolated and without medical treatment.
Even after prisons and jails implemented basic safety measures such as masks and monitoring, incarcerated people’s illness and death rates remained higher than the general population.According to The Marshall Project, Covid-19 has infected about 400,000 inmates, a rate of around 1 in 5. More than 2,500 died.
In the last year, the BOP faced criticism—and lawsuits—of its handling of the federal facilities pandemic.
In Thursday’s briefing, Carvajal defended the Bureau’s job.
“We have a tradition of handling pandemics in the Prison Bureau, O.K.? COVID ‘S different. Extremely infectious. It happened really fast, “he said.
Those housed in federal jails are only about 10% of Americans imprisoned. The vast majority are housed in state prisons and municipal jails.
Vaccine access for patients in such facilities is much more varied. While the CDC suggested that incarcerated people be prioritized for the vaccine along with several other disadvantaged groups, states are free to prioritize their own goals, and not all have opted to prioritize inmates.
Massachusetts included inmates in the first phase of vaccine delivery and began vaccinating inmates and staff in January. The Oregon Corrections Department reported offering vaccines to all 13,200 people in detention by March 10.
In Florida, however, prisoners only began receiving vaccines in early April. As of this week, according to a WFTS investigation in Tampa, about half of the Florida counties surveyed had not yet started vaccinating people detained in county-run jails.
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