U.S. prison guards refuse vaccine despite outbreak of COVID-19

A Florida prison officer voted for a colleague earlier this year in a private Facebook group. “Would you like to get the COVID-19 vaccine if provided?”

Answers from more than half: “hell”. Only 40 of the 475 respondents answered “yes”.

In Massachusetts, more than half of the people employed by correctional bureaus refused vaccination. A state-wide survey in California showed that half of all orthodontic employees wait for vaccination. In Rhode Island, prison officials rejected the vaccine at a higher rate than they were imprisoned, said Dr. Justin Burke, medical director. Also, in Iowa, an early poll of employees stated that more than half of their staff would be vaccinated.

Correctional personnel are rejecting the vaccine at an alarming rate as the state begins vaccination with COVID-19 in prisons across the country, and some public health experts are worried about the possibility of controlling pandemics inside and outside the country. I will. Prison infection rates are more than three times higher than the general public. Prison staff refused to wear masks, downplayed people’s symptoms, and unplanned social distance and hygiene protocols in confined, poorly ventilated spaces ripe for virus spread. Helped to accelerate.



The story is a collaboration between the Associated Press and The Marshall Project, investigating the state of the prison system in a coronavirus pandemic. Nicole Lewis, Beth Schwarzapfer and Tom Miger reported on the Marshall Project.


The Marshall Project and Associated Press spoke with orthodontists and union leaders across the country, as well as public health professionals and doctors working in prisons, despite the high risk of being infected with COVID-19. .. Many employees spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of losing their jobs if they spoke.

In December and January, at least 37 prison systems began providing vaccines to employees, especially front-line orthodontists and medical workers. More than 106,000 prison personnel in 29 systems, including the Federal Bureau of Prisons, have been vaccinated with at least one COVID-19 vaccine, according to data compiled by The Marshall Project and the Associated Press since December. Also, some states do not track vaccinated employees in community environments such as clinics and pharmacies.


Still, some prison officers refuse the vaccine because they fear both short-term and long-term side effects of vaccination. Others have accepted the conspiracy theory about vaccines. Distrust of prison administration and its handling of the virus has also discouraged police officers from being vaccinated. In some cases, prison officers said they wanted to be fired rather than vaccinated.

Vaccine resistance is not limited to prison officers. Healthcare workers, nursing home caretakers, and police officers who witnessed the worst effects of the pandemic refused to be vaccinated at an unexpectedly high rate.

According to public health experts, refusing to vaccinate prison workers can undermine efforts to control pandemics inside and outside prisons. Prisons are a hotspot for the coronavirus, so when staff move between the prison and the local community after work, they create a route for the virus to spread. Last year, more than 388,000 imprisoned people and 105,000 staff were infected with the coronavirus. In states such as Michigan, Kansas, and Arizona, this means that one in three staff members are infected. In Maine, which has the lowest infection rate, 1 in 20 staff members were COVID-19 positive. Nationally, these infections have proven fatal to 2,474 prisoners and at least 193 personnel.


Bree Williams, an orthodontic expert at the University of California, San Francisco, said: “Prison workers are an important part of the equation that leads to disease relief and reduced likelihood of new outbreaks of COVID-19 explosive in the future, or UCSF.

In FCI Miami, Florida’s federal prison, as of March 11, less than half of the facility’s 240 employees were fully vaccinated, said Kareen Troitino, chairman of the local orthodontic union. .. Many of the rejected workers expressed concern about the efficacy and side effects of the vaccine, Troitino said.

In January, Troitino and FCI Miami observer Sylvester Jenkins sent an email to employees saying they agreed to be vaccinated “in solidarity” and encouraged staff to do the same. .. “We recognize and respect that this allegation is not mandatory, but we still encourage all staff to join us to promote staff safety,” said January 27. E-mail says.


Only 25 employees have signed up. There were two major coronavirus outbreaks in FCI Miami, Troitino said. More than 400 out of 852 prisoners were suspected of the disease in July last year, and about 100 were affected in the facility’s minimum security camp in December.

So many orthodontists and prisoners have not been vaccinated and can happen again. “Everyone is at stake,” Troitino said. He was shot, but worried about another outbreak and the impact on the already growing staffing in prison.

The pandemic is already burdening prisons suffering from low staffing and substandard health care. Low police vaccination rates can push prisons to the limit. In the midst of an outbreak behind the bar, so many staff members called for illness or refused to work, and some states had to call National Guard to temporarily operate the facility.


In FCI Miami, police officers are constantly sending sick and elderly prisoners to hospitals, according to Troitino. As a result, a staff skeleton crew is left to run the prison. Unvaccinated staff only exacerbates the problem because they are at risk of getting sick when an outbreak occurs in prison.

“Many employees are scared when they learn,’Oh, we happened in the unit, 150 prisoners have COVIDs,'” Troitino said. “Everyone is sick and calls.”

Part of the resistance to the vaccine is false information that is widespread among correctional staff, said Brian Dawe, a former correctional officer and national director of One Voice United, a policy and advocacy group for police officers. The vast majority of law enforcement people are leaning to the right, Dawe said. “They get a lot of information from the right-wing media,” he said. “Many of them believe they don’t need to wear a mask. It’s like the flu.” National polls show that Republicans without a college degree are most resistant to the vaccine. I have.


Several Florida prison officers spoke anonymously because they were not allowed to speak to the press, saying many of their colleagues believed that the vaccine could give them the virus. .. Some have uncovered conspiracy theories prevailing on social media, officials said they believed the vaccine included a tracking device manufactured by former Microsoft CEO Bill Gates who donated to coronavirus treatment research. .. (The vaccine does not include a tracking device.) Others believe that the vaccine was produced in a hurry without enough time to understand the long-term side effects.

“Even if all prisoners work in dormitories infected with COVID, I haven’t been vaccinated yet,” said a correctional sergeant who has worked for the Florida Correctional Bureau for over a decade. “If you wear a mask, gloves, wash your hands, and pay attention, you feel better to work that way than to put the vaccine in your body.”


The attitude of police officers on vaccines is so widespread that UCSF researchers have created a leaflet with the following frequently asked questions for imprisoned people: If they haven’t got it, why should I do it? Researchers encourage imprisoned people to learn as much as possible about vaccines and make their own decisions “regardless of what others are doing.”

Public health experts urged the state to prioritize prisons and vaccinations in prisons, but warned that staff should be prioritized over prisoners. Numbers from many states are not available, but the Marshall Project and Associated Press have found that at least 15 people began vaccination of staff before being imprisoned. Lauren Brinkley Rubinstein, head of the COVID Prison Project, which tracks the corrective authorities’ response to the pandemic, said: “As we said over and over again, we shouldn’t have this two-tier system.”


However, the refusal of security guards to be vaccinated is a blessing to some imprisoned people. Due to the short shelf life of the vaccine after thawing, authorities provided the remaining vaccine to prisoners rather than wasting it. Julia Ann Poff has been imprisoned in FMC Carswell, a federal prison in Texas, for women who need special medical and mental health to send bombs to state and federal authorities. She said she received her first shot in mid-December after several officers declined.

“I think I’m very fortunate to receive it,” she wrote using the prison email system. “I have been diagnosed with lupus and recent heart disease, so I couldn’t afford to (get sick) myself.”

Aside from false information and conspiracy theories, some federal prison officers say they refuse the vaccine because they do not trust prison control. The Federal Bureau of Prisons was fired and imprisoned by employees in response to the coronavirus. Some criticisms include a lack of early pandemic masks and soaps, a damaged thermometer at a facility, and a sick prisoner who said he had gathered together without a social distance.


At FCI Mendota, a federal security prison near Fresno, California, officials closed the employee’s main entrance in January, pouring employees into the vaccination clinic, which is a visiting room, and getting vaccinated. Forced to decide on the spot whether or not. Employees were not allowed to proceed to their post without being vaccinated or signing a form declaring that they had refused the vaccine.

Aaron McGrotin, chairman of the local orthodontic union, said he refused the vaccine because of medical problems and added that he did not trust the motives of prison staff.

Employers cannot require staff to be vaccinated. Therefore, prison officer refusals put imprisoned people at risk because they have no way of protecting themselves from unmasked, unvaccinated officers. By December, one in five people imprisoned had been infected with the coronavirus, according to data compiled by The Marshall Project and the Associated Press.


Prison officers can also take the virus home from work and infect family members. In extreme cases, the families themselves can become seriously ill or even die. At least five families of orthodontic employees have been at COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, according to Morning Our Losses, an online monument tracking the deaths of COVID-19 in prisons and prison workers. I’m dead. In one example, a Florida prison officer and his wife died in an intensive care unit lined up on the same day.

For some cops, these life and death experiences are wake-up calls. In FCI Miami, where Troitino leads a local board union, several employees were infected with the virus or hospitalized with COVID-19 but refused after authorities recommended vaccination in late January. Some of those employees have expressed a change of heart about the vaccine.


“They called on me to book a vaccine on my return,” Troitino said. “A few people face life and death and are completely overwhelmed by their experience.”

Copyright 2021 AP communication. all rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.

U.S. prison guards refuse vaccine despite outbreak of COVID-19

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