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  • Doug Tjapkes

How soon should MI prisoners get the vaccine? ASAP!

The feds have come up with some cockamamy idea that prison staff should have priority for the COVID vaccine, but not the inmates! Michigan must not let that happen. State health officials are currently working on a distribution plan for the vaccines when they become available. We have heard no details yet, but we are particularly interested in the recommendations for prisoners. Federal officials have suggested that corrections staff be placed on high priority status for the vaccine, but not the millions of federal prisoners! That goofy bit of information comes to us from the New York Times. Roni Caryn Rabin, of the NY Times, accurately describes prison environment: They live in crowded conditions, sharing bathrooms and eating facilities where social distancing is impossible. They have high rates of asthma, diabetes and heart disease. Many struggle with mental illness. A disproportionate number are Black and Hispanic, members of minority communities that have been hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic. The same can be said about state prisons in Michigan, and most everywhere else. So, asks Ms. Rabin, “Should prisoners and other detainees be given priority access to one of the new Covid-19 vaccines?” Heavens, yes! Kyle Kaminski, in the MDOC front office, told me, “As a high-risk congregant setting, we are obviously hopeful that we will have access to a safe and effective vaccine in the near future.” Michigan prisoner deaths are approaching 100. Number of cases among prisoners is over 17,000! The C.D.C. advisory committee has prioritized correctional officers and others who work in jails and prisons for the first phase of immunizations. The federal prison system will set aside its initial allotment for such employees, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press. Said the NY Times: The discrepancy raises a chilling prospect: another prison outbreak that kills scores of inmates after the only preventive was reserved for staff. Officials at the Justice Department did not respond to a request for comment. It is our hope that Michigan health officials join with the American Medical Association in calling for a modification of this bone-head decision. Because of the unique risks to people behind bars, as well as the potential for outbreaks to spread from correctional centers, Coronavirus vaccines must be given to inmates and employees at prisons, jails and detention centers as early as possible!

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