Health Care

57% of eligible incarcerated individuals get Covid-19 booster so far this month

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A dose of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine is prepared at a clinic in Berlin on Oct. 2. Photo by Glenn Russell/VTDigger

About 57% of Vermont’s incarcerated population eligible for a Covid-19 booster shot have received one since the state Department of Corrections rolled out its program early this month, according to the latest available numbers.

A breakdown of the figures shows that as of Monday, of the 1,283 incarcerated people in Vermont’s six correctional facilities and housed out-of-state at a Mississippi prison, 967 are vaccinated, or 75%, according to Rachel Feldman, a corrections department spokesperson

Of those 967, Feldman said, 866, or 89%, are “booster eligible,” meaning they have received earlier vaccination shots long enough ago to qualify for a booster. 

And of those 866 incarcerated people eligible for a booster shot, 494, or 57%, have received them, Feldman said.

For comparison, according to the state Department of Health, 56% of eligible Vermonters 16 and older have received the booster shot. 

Feldman said there are still incarcerated individuals who need to be offered booster shots, while some who have been offered one have refused to get it.  

“All facilities have had the boosters offered,” she said, adding that there are incarcerated individuals in some of those facilities that still need to be offered the booster shot.

That is expected to take place by the end of this week or early next week, according to Feldman, and she said more up-to-date numbers would be available when the department compiles its next weekly update on Monday.

The corrections department, Feldman said, has provided incarcerated individuals with educational information about the boosters. 

In addition, she said, incarcerated people can review on their computer tablets messages from officials, including Mark Levine, Vermont’s health commissioner; Nicholas Deml, the state corrections commissioner; and Vermont Defender General Matthew Valerio, about the booster shot.

As of Monday, 160 incarcerated individuals in custody in Vermont and eligible for a booster have refused the shot, while 34 of those eligible for a booster shot housed out-of-state in the Mississippi prison have refused a booster, Feldman said.

“We cannot do anything about those who refuse,” she said. “Everyone has a right to make the choice for themselves.”

Across the state’s correctional system, Feldman said late Wednesday afternoon, there currently are two incarcerated individuals who have tested positive for Covid-19.

Neither Valerio, whose department oversees the state’s Prisoners’ Rights Office, nor Emily Tredeau, the supervisory attorney for that office, could immediately be reached Wednesday for comment.

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