Incarcerated people still lack access to Covid-19 vaccines in up to half of Pennsylvania county jails, despite being given priority in the state’s plan and having been eligible for two months now.
In our ongoing work tracking vaccinations in jails, the Prison Society has only been able to confirm that 30 out of the state’s 63 county jails have given incarcerated people a chance to get immunized. Sixteen jails we’ve followed up with told us they have not offered vaccinations yet, while the rest have not responded to inquiries. Meanwhile, over 70% of adults in Pennsylvania have gotten at least one dose of the vaccine, and state prisons run by the Department of Corrections have fully vaccinated 75% of people in custody.
“There is a gross inequity in vaccine access for people confined to county jails,” says Claire Shubik-Richards, the Prison Society’s executive director. “Instead of giving them the early access they needed, too many jails have denied incarcerated people a chance to get this potentially life-saving vaccine. This is yet another example of profound health inequity. Counties need to address this now.”
All incarcerated people in Pennsylvania were supposed to be given a chance to be inoculated ahead of the general population because of their heightened risk from Covid-19. A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association has found that people in U.S. prisons become infected five to six times more often than the rest of the community, and die from the disease three times as often.
After we asked you to take action to help address a systemic problem that made it difficult for jails to obtain vaccine supplies, the Department of Health made thousands more doses available to county jails a month ago. That allowed a number of jails to offer vaccination clinics in the weeks that followed, but the pace has slowed since. In the past week, the Prison Society has seen no reports of additional county correctional facilities making the shots available. View our interactive tracking map to see which counties have still not vaccinated incarcerated people.
The Prison Society urges all state and county officials to provide vaccines to all people in custody and staff in county jails without delay.
We also once again call on all state and county officials to: