Oregon prisons get 5,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine

By Conrad Wilson (OPB)
Feb. 9, 2021 8:27 p.m.

Starting Wednesday, the Oregon Department of Corrections will begin vaccinating 5,000 inmates across the state. The most vulnerable people will be vaccinated first, and the agency said it expects 75% of all inmates to agree to vaccination.

“The allotment is based on vulnerability of the adult in custody population and the size of the institution,” agency spokeswoman Jen Black said in an email.


Related: Judge orders Oregon to offer prison inmates COVID-19 vaccines immediately

This week, the agency received the 5,000 doses of Moderna vaccine following an order from a federal judge last Tuesday that forced the state’s prison system to offer COVID-19 vaccines to inmates, essentially treating them like others in congregate care settings.


The vaccinations come following a deadly month inside Oregon’s prisons. Twenty inmates died in January after testing positive for the virus, roughly half of all those who have died since the pandemic struck.

Rather than signing up, inmates will have to opt-out if they don’t want a vaccine.

“This means that each (adult in custody) who is eligible for a vaccine will be called out to an appointment with a nurse or other health care provider, and the AIC will then be vaccinated or affirmatively decline the vaccine,” Black said.

The prison health system will later follow up with those who initially decline.

Though the vaccinations came about after a court order, these will not be the first Oregon inmates to receive inoculations.

On Jan. 16 and 17, prison officials vaccinated 1,343 inmates who were medically vulnerable, older or both. But the Department of Corrections said those inmates were vaccinated “due to some miscommunication regarding eligibility definitions and timing of certain eligibility categories.”

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