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Vaccinations Begin at High-Risk Prisons

First shots for staff; then adults in custody

12/30/2020, 11:21 a.m.
Some of the first COVID vaccines arriving in Oregon are being targeted to Oregon’s prisons, where staff and inmates are ...
Dr. Warren Roberts, the chief medical director for the Oregon Department of Corrections, receives the Moderna Therapeutics COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday as public health officials target prisons where staff and inmates are among the most at–risk populations in danger of contracting the virus.

Some of the first COVID vaccines arriving in Oregon are being targeted to Oregon’s prisons, where staff and inmates are among the most at- risk populations in danger of contracting the virus, according to public health officials.

The Oregon Department of Corrections announced that prison employees began receiving the Moderna Therapeutics COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday, part of an initial delivery of enough doses to treat 400 people.

In the coming months, the protection will be offered and strongly encouraged to all corrections staff, contractors, Oregon Corrections Enterprises employees, and adults in custody, officials said. The prioritization of vaccines will be determined by guidance from the Oregon Health Authority, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, and the Governor’s Office.

Dr. Warren Roberts, the chief medical director for the Oregon Department of Corrections, was one of the first employees to receive the vaccine. He strongly encouraged all prison employees, the people who are incarcerated, and the public to also get vaccinated as soon as it is available to them.

“I’ve seen first-hand the epidemic in the prison setting and know we need to fight back with all tools available. Some of the worst outbreaks in Oregon have been in institutional settings and this virus does not stay behind the prison walls, it seeps out into the surrounding community,” Roberts said.

Authorities said the vaccinations will begin with individuals who are in close contact with COVID-19-positive individuals and infectious materials. This includes medical providers and nurses, transport employees, security staff working on COVID-19 units and/or performing hospital watches, and a small number of adults in custody whose work assignments involve cleaning and disinfecting in COVID-19-positive units.

“The 13,000 adults in DOC custody miss seeing their friends and family, and vaccines will help us open visiting again. And as essential public safety professionals, DOC employees and their loved ones deserve some peace of mind and protection against the virus,” Roberts said.

“Again, I encourage all Oregonians to get vaccinated and help us turn the tide. Even if you are skeptical, please consider those around you – your elderly parents, your neighbors, your community members who have underlying health conditions. We have all made sacrifices this year, but getting the vaccine is a heroic act and an enormous step toward protecting the lives of all Americans.”