Wednesday, January 06, 2021

Prioritizing prisoners for virus vaccine sparks controversy

As states decide how to roll out vaccines for the novel coronavirus, giving priority to prisoners has proved controversial. 

"The very nature of jails and prisons—people living in close quarters with restricted movement and limited options for social distancing—has made them more susceptible to the coronavirus than much of the rest of society,"  David Montgomery reports for Stateline. "But even though long-awaited vaccines are finally at hand, prisoner advocates fear that public antipathy toward inmates and politicians’ reluctance to make them a priority will delay or restrict the drugs’ arrival behind bars."

Prisons are seeing unusually high infection rates. "Approximately 20 percent of all inmates in state and federal prisons have been infected, a rate more than four times as high as that in the general population, according to a recent analysis by the Associated Press and the Marshall Project," Montgomery reports. "Nationwide, at least 275,000 prisoners have been infected and more than 1,700 have died, according to the report."

Prisons and jails have been a major vector of community coronavirus transmission, especially in rural areas where prisons tend to be located. That's because it's not just incarcerated people getting infected; prison and jail workers also often carry the virus back home with them, Montgomery reports.

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