Less than a year after the first reports of COVID-19 cases behind bars, 15,557 of Virginia’s 24,000 prison inmates and 6,341 of 11,000 employees have received at least one dose of the Moderna vaccine, according to officials.
As of noon Monday, nearly 13,000 inmates and 4,221 staff members had received a second dose, Lisa Kinney, spokeswoman for the Virginia Department of Corrections, wrote in an email Tuesday. According to Kinney, all inmates have been offered vaccinations.
“We will continue to offer the vaccine to inmates and staff who have thus far declined to take it,” Kinney wrote. “Our vaccine education program is ongoing. We’re airing interviews with medical staff and others, distributing information from the CDC, running an inmate hotline, hanging informational posters, etc.”
The two facilities hit hardest were the Deerfield Correctional Center and the State Farm Correctional Complex with 19 and 10 deaths, respectively. Many older inmates and/or those with serious health problems are held at Deerfield.
More than 9,000 inmates have tested positive since the pandemic began, but officials said that majority of cases were either mild or had no symptoms.
At one point there were hundreds of active cases with many inmates hospitalized. As of Monday, there were 18 active inmates cases and 30 active staff cases, according to figures on the department’s website.
The prison cases prompted the ACLU of Virginia, the Legal Aid Justice Center and other advocacy organizations to call for the release of many prisoners to relieve crowding and help deter the spread of the virus in the closely confined facilities.
The department said that as of Sunday 1,083 prison inmates, 584 jail inmates and two patients and at institutional hospitals had been given early releases under legislation approved last year aimed at reducing crowding and lessening the risk of COVID-19.
Virginia’s Phase 1a vaccination effort included healthcare workers and residents in long-term care facilities including the Department of Corrections medial staff.
Phase 1b began on Jan. 11 and includes frontline essential workers and high-risk groups such as corrections employees and people living in correctional facilities.
“Our medical staff have done a tremendous job getting shots into arms as we’ve received the vaccine from the Virginia Department of Health,” wrote Kinney.
According to Kinney, the consulting firm Deloitte and the Virginia Department of Health assisted the department on a strategy for deploying the vaccine. The department’s medical staff also consulted weekly consultation with members of the University of Virginia’s infectious disease team regarding vaccine rollout, Kinney said.