President Joe Biden has rolled out a deadline of April 16 for every man, woman, and child in America to be vaccinated against COVID-19. This is not to say that anti-vaxxers will be dragged from their homes and forcibly inoculated, but there are a great number of people who want the shot and still can’t get it no matter what Biden says or wants. It isn’t available for them.
These people are commonly referred to as prisoners whose living conditions should warrant them being first in line. Breathing the recirculated air within their tightly confined quarters transforms them into human Petri dishes. This is not even considering the visitors they receive who may not have been vaccinated, or the prison staff, an overwhelming number of whom have declined the shot.
In Florida alone, where the vaccine is now being offered to those 16 and older, more than 70,000 of those incarcerated by the state are not slated to be vaccinated. They have zero access to the vaccine. Sorry about your luck.
But this issue is not restricted to state prisons alone. More than 80% of all state and federal prisoners have not been vaccinated. According to the Marshall Project and The Associated Press, advocates for those behind bars are filing lawsuits. Most of the convicts would like the opportunity to one day be released and become productive citizens, but this requires not being killed by a virus prior to being given that chance.
Due to overcrowded conditions, since March 2020, 3 in10 prisoners have fallen ill, and an astounding 2,500 of them did not survive. Because of their chosen lifestyles, it is not uncommon for inmates to have preexisting medical conditions leaving them particularly vulnerable to becoming fatalities. This, coupled with limited substandard medical care and no access to protective gear, in particular facemasks, leaves them with little hope of not contracting the virus.
Jaimie Meyer, an associate professor of medicine and public health at Yale University said, “This is about a public health strategy. If you want to see an end to the pandemic, you’ve got to vaccinate the people in the places where there are the largest clusters and the most cases.”
Making a terrible situation even worse, Many prisoners are afraid that reporting their symptoms will land them in solitary confinement with even less access to proper medical treatment should their condition worsen. Some prisoners have reported having to wait days for treatment after informing the staff of their symptoms. Others have said they’re being handed aspirin and being told to “take things easy” for a while.
In many of the prisons soap and toilet paper have run scarce leaving sanitary conditions less than desirable. This has been a major factor in contributing to the viruses further spread. Inmates have little choice other than to hang out in communal areas and it has been reported that in some cases entire dormitories are ill with COVID-19 symptoms.
Despite CDC guidelines requiring inmates to be vaccinated, Arkansas and Florida have not as yet even begun inoculating them. Eight states have not bothered to report if or how many of their prisoners have been vaccinated, making it easy to determine the number to be a big fat goose egg.
Maine has just begun vaccinating their state prison population so as of now only 7% of them have received it. In Tennessee, the few prisoners who have received the vaccine had to wait months due to political turmoil. State officials didn’t want to start a public relations nightmare by vaccinating prisoners prior to everyone else in the state. Prisons in Tennessee have reported the largest clusters of COVID-19, and hundreds of inmates remain sick.
Oregon officials have announced that all of their state prisoners have now been vaccinated, but this only happened as the result of a lawsuit where a federal judge ordered it to be done. In Texas, when a refrigerator door was inadvertently left open that contained 600 doses of the vaccine, it was offered to prisoners since none of the staff would use it. Outside of these 600, no other prisoners in Texas have been vaccinated, and there are no immediate plans to remedy the situation.
It’s up to the Biden administration to take this bull by the horns but thus far there has been no action on their part.