DOC to offer COVID-19 vaccination incentives

DOVER — Besides the potentially life-saving results, there’s several other incentives for inmates to receive free COVID-19 vaccine injections when they become available.

Delaware Department of Correction inmates who receive both shots — spaced three to four weeks apart — will receive:

• Five days of good time credits (for sentenced inmates who are eligible to receive good time credits).

• One free video visit, up to 30 minutes.

• One free commissary snack bag or special meal (decided by facility warden).

•When in-person visitation restarts, COVID-vaccinated inmate appointments will be scheduled first.

High-risk congregant settings such as prisons are listed in the third part of Delaware’s Phase 1 grouping for priority vaccinations, and a target date remains undetermined based on product availability, according to the DOC and Delaware Division of Public Health. The arrival could perhaps come by mid-March, according to a DPH allocation plan, but nothing is finalized.

Once received the DOC believes the vaccinations can be administered swiftly and efficiently.

“The DOC has demonstrated through the annual flu vaccine that it can quickly vaccinate large numbers of inmates and staff,” DOC spokesman Jason Miller said.

“The timeframe to complete COVID vaccinations will be determined by how quickly vaccine doses are released to the DOC.”

Other groups within the third part of Phase 1 include essential workers not already covered and 16- to 64-year-olds with high-risk medical conditions.

When available “Inmate vaccinations will begin immediately upon receipt by the DOC of vaccines that are designated by DPH for the inmate population,” DOC spokesman Jason Miller said.

According to Prison Policy Initiative, Delaware is one of eight states listing inmates in a Phase 1 or Phase 1 subdivision in its plan, and one of 15 listing correction staff.

DOC administered an initial 200 COVID-19 vaccination doses (from Moderna) this week to correctional healthcare workers and a limited number of correctional officers who are in direct contact with inmates in correctional facilities, according to Mr. Miller. Priority was given to staff who work in COVID-19 treatment centers, prison infirmaries, and in housing units for inmates with chronic health conditions, Mr. Miller said.

While DOC staff or inmates can’t be required to receive the vaccine, “The DOC strongly urges all inmates and staff to be vaccinated and has been providing education about the vaccines and the vaccine development process to staff and inmates as we await vaccine distribution.”

The DOC said inmates who have tested positive for COVID-19 must be recovered and wait 90 days after the positive COVID-19 test before they can receive the vaccine.

Priority tiers for inmates are as follows, in order from first to last:

• Inmates with end stage pulmonary or cardiac disease. Immunocompromised inmates with multiple high risk medical conditions.

• Inmates age 60 and older with chronic medical conditions as identified by the Division of Public Health and the CDC, including cardiac, pulmonary, metabolic, immunocompromising, and sickle cell conditions.

• Inmates under the age of 60 with chronic health conditions as identified by the Division of Public Health and the CDC, including cardiac, pulmonary, metabolic, and immunocompromising conditions.

• All other inmates age 60 and older

• All other inmates not included in the above categories.

• Inmates who have been COVID-positive and have recovered will be offered the vaccination as they clear the CDC’s recommended 90-day threshold and meet the tier designations above.

Nursing staff from the DOC Bureau of Healthcare, Substance Abuse, and Mental Health Services and staff from DOC’s medical vendor will administer COVID vaccines to inmates and staff. All inmates and staff will have access to COVID-19 vaccinations and vaccinations may be administered in a variety of designated sites across facilities.

According to the DOC, “COVID-19 vaccination is critically important to protect our Officers, staff, contract employees, inmates, and visitors from COVID-19 infection. Vaccination is the best protection against the COVID-19 virus and the DOC would like to vaccinate every inmate and staff member.”

As of Wednesday, there were 28 inmates with COVID-19 at James T. Vaughn Correctional Center, 114 at Howard R. Young Correctional Institution and 46 at Sussex Correctional Institution. Of the 188 cases overall, 154 were asymptomatic.

There were 24 infected JTVCC staff members, 18 with HRYCI and 17 at SCI. Of the 59 cases, 45 were asymptomatic.

Overall inmate and staff recoveries were 1,589 and 538, respectively.

Eleven inmates have died from complications from serious chronic diseases and COVID-19 and 1 from complications from COVID-19. Eight fatalities were from JTVCC and four from SCI.

Helpful Coronavirus links

Delaware Division of Health Coronavirus Page
CDC: About the Coronavirus Disease 2019
CDC: What to do if You Are Sick
Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center
AP News Coronavirus Coverage
Reopening Delaware: Resources for Businesses
Delaware Phase 2 guidance

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