The Department of Public Safety announced that it will finish administering the inaugural 1,300 doses of vaccines it received this week at a press conference today.
As of Wednesday, 534 staff and 49 inmates had been vaccinated within 24 hours after the DPS received the doses from the Department of Health and Human Services, said Todd Ishee, Commissioner of Prisons. Ishee said both staff and residents exhibit an increased level of interest in being vaccinated.
Inmates aged 75 and older are among the first group eligible to be vaccinated. Individuals are free to decide whether they wish to be vaccinated or not.
“We see the vaccine as a pathway out of this terrible and tragic pandemic,” Tim Moose, chief deputy secretary at of Adult Correction and Juvenile Justice said at the press conference.
Moose said DPS will have vaccinated health care workers and those over 75 by the end of next week, and then move on to the 65–74 age group.
Central, Maury, Scotland and Alexander prisons serve as the four regional hubs for distribution to the 55 correctional facilities statewide. Ishee said the process, in which the National Guard has partnered with DPS, has gone “extremely smooth.”
Prisons medical director Dr. Les Campbell said DPS will receive weekly allocations based on the previous week and the availability of vaccine shots from the CDC until its has fully vaccinated the population. He maintained that the department also conducts rigorous contact tracing and has been using single cells and spreading out inmates for social distancing purposes to curb outbreaks.
At present, 536 prison staff members are off work because of COVID infection themselves or exposure to the virus. As of Thursday, about one-third of the 108,614 offenders connected to overseen by DPS (inmates, probationers, individuals under post-release supervision) have been tested with 404 active cases. There have been 41 reported deaths related to COVID-19 at 17 correctional facilities statewide, according to DPS.