We have two important updates on prison vaccinations this week.
First, the Department of Corrections will resume Covid vaccinations with the Johnson & Johnson shot on Monday, after the CDC and FDA lifted the pause on its use. The federal agencies recommended resuming use of the J&J vaccine without any restrictions following a “thorough safety review” that examined very rare cases of a dangerous blood clotting syndrome. Those at highest risk of developing the clots appear to be younger women, the CDC says, and no cases have been recorded in men. Still, the agencies found that regardless of gender, the vaccine’s benefits outweigh the risk.
As it starts giving the J&J shot again, the DOC says it will offer the Moderna vaccine instead to women and transgender people in custody. Moderna’s vaccine has not been associated with the blood clotting syndrome.
In many county jails, however, incarcerated people still lack access to vaccines nearly a month after they first became eligible. The Prison Society is tracking vaccinations across the state, and we know of only five county jails that have begun inoculating people in custody against COVID-19. According to a report from WLVR, a systemic problem in the state’s distribution plan has made it difficult for county jails to obtain supplies of the vaccines. PrimeCare Medical, the health care provider for the majority of Pennsylvania’s county jails, says that despite requesting shots from the Department of Health months ago, it still can’t find available supplies. At the same time that vaccine clinics open to the general public are struggling to fill appointment slots, the vulnerable jail population—which was given priority access—is still waiting.
Help us let the Pennsylvania Department of Health know that this is unacceptable. Call acting Health Secretary Alison Beam’s office at 717-787-9857 and leave a message urging her to provide vaccines to all county correctional facilities as soon as possible. CLICK HERE for instructions and a suggested script.
The Prison Society urges all state and county officials to provide vaccines to all people in custody and staff in jails and prisons as soon as possible.
In addition, we continue to call on all state and county officials to: