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Vaccinating prison staff against COVID-19 is uphill battle with low supply, many saying no thanks

Master Sgt. David Eichaker
Air National Guard

COVID-19 vaccinations are moving slowly for the thousands of corrections officers and other staff in state prisons.

Health care workers in prisons have first priority, but in some counties, those vaccinations have just started. The rest of prison staff, including corrections officers, are next in line for scarce vaccines.

Chris Gautz is a spokesman for the Michigan Department of Corrections. He says only about half of the prison employees who took a survey said they would definitely or probably get the vaccine.

He hopes that will change.

"Even though it's slow in some cases, that might help," says Gautz. "Because it gives the employees more time to think about it, to get more comfortable with it because this a new thing. But as they see their colleagues go out and getting it and coming back and feeling good about it and not having reactions, then they go and sign up for it as as well, which is great."

A survey of  inmates found that more of them want to get the vaccine than prison staff. 

But inmates currently will not be offered the vaccine sooner than the general population. 

That's as wave after wave of COVID-19 cases have spread virtually unchecked in many prisons, infecting more than half the current population, and killing 127 so far.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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