After being the site of the state’s largest COVID outbreaks, a judge ruled to prioritize vaccinations for inmates, and according to the Oregon Department of Corrections chief medical officer, 80% have opted to take the vaccine.
Before the snowstorm, ODOC vaccinated around 5,000 inmates.
Over 40 inmates have died from coronavirus outbreaks in the jails.
“Our constitution says we cannot cruelly and unusually punish people,” Juan Chavez, an attorney with the Oregon Justice Resource Center said. “We have an obligation to protect the people we’ve taken into our custody.”
The Oregon Justice Resource Center is the advocacy group that helped file a lawsuit to make inmate vaccination a priority.
Viewers of KGW sent in many comments after a judge ruled to prioritize vaccines for inmates, with many expressing that they were upset that other susceptible Oregonians had to wait.
While the decision is on the basis of human treatment for those in custody, lowering the spread of the virus is important for the health of the staff as well.
“A lot of folks on the inside may still want that vaccine if they understood its benefits, its efficacy, and its safety,” Chavez said.
ODOC officials said they are using education to help the inmate population learn more and reduce distrust about the vaccines. People who choose not to take the vaccine meet with healthcare providers to explain their reluctance, and ODOC provides information to them via pamphlets and videos.
Most people who want the vaccine will receive the first dose by the end of next week.
By: Hannah Ramsey