JACKSON, Mich. — The COVID-19 pandemic has been devastating to staff and inmates alike in Michigan prisons. But, now hundreds of prisoners and guards have been vaccinated.
The first on-site vaccinations happened today at the G. Robert Cotton Correctional Facility. Staff members have had opportunities to get vaccinated, but this process will give them flexibility, Michigan Department of Corrections Public Information Officer Chris Gautz said.
"We had some staff that were not able to get it and some staff that were able to get it so what we did is we worked with the state health department to secure for our staff population so they can have access to the vaccine and we’ve provided that to them on site," said Gautz
Prisoners have received 620 vaccinations across the four Jackson facilities. All of them were 65 and over or had severe health problems.
“There’s about 33,000 prisoners statewide so 4,000 out of 33,000 have been vaccinated," said Gautz.
Here in Jackson there are 5,687 prisoners and 1,509 staff members across the Department of Corrections facilities, so vaccinations are crucial to the health of the wider community, officials say.
"You have MDOC employees that live out in the community and work in other areas of the community so it’s critical with it being one of our largest employers in the county that they get vaccinated so, kind of two fold there protecting those in the facility as well as those that go out and about in the community," said Jackson County Health Department Health Officer Rashmi Travis.
The Department of Corrections worked closely with the Jackson County Health Department to get shots in arms for the employees.
“Again we sure hope they’re able to take advantage of it because we were able to secure it just for our employees to be able to take," said Gautz, midday on Monday. "Whatever we don’t use today in Jackson will go back to the health department and then they’ll have those available to be able to give out to members of the community of the phase they’re currently in.”
Travis said vaccinating prisoners is important because living together in close conditions makes them particularly vulnerable to the disease.
"Being that it’s a congregate care facility, I liken it to you know we also keep track of nursing homes and quite close basis and there are individuals who are elderly that might be staying the prison so understanding that they could be at risk, they’re also vulnerable, it’s also critically important that they be vaccinated and protected as well," Travis said.
Health officials are urging both inmates and staff to be vaccinated to prevent future outbreaks.
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