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Delaware's prisons speeding up access to vaccinations

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Sophia Schmidt
/
Delaware Public Media

COVID-19 vaccinations are moving forward quickly in Delaware prisons.

 

The Delaware Department of Correction reports all inmates over 60 who wanted a vaccine received one.

 

 

That’s one step towards DOC Commissioner Claire DeMatteis’ goal of getting at least 80 percent of inmates vaccinated by the end of June.

 

DeMatteis says vaccinations started slowly because of things out of the DOC’s control.

 

“Initially it was just a lack of getting the doses we needed. But over the past couple of weeks as more vaccine doses have been made available to all states, not just Delaware, we have aggressively stepped up our efforts to get officers and all inmates vaccinated," DeMatteis said.

 

Just last week, the DOC received over 1,000 doses to administer to inmates and correctional officers.

 

According to DeMatteis, over 82 percent of those 60 and older chose to be vaccinated. That’s currently higher than the national rate of around 70 percent.

 

She chalks that up to a strong system of encouragement for inmates.

 

“Once they see, you know, people like the warden of the facility having been vaccinated, the nurses, other inmates, they definitely have a more of a comfort level with it," she said.

 

Inmates also receive incentives such as additional time off, free commissary items and more visitation time.

 

The department continues to work on getting correctional officers vaccinated, DeMatteis says some facilities still see under 50 percent vaccination rates.

 

She says part of that can be attributed to some CO’s holding out for the single shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine.  DOC is trying to educate them on the importance of getting a vaccine right now rather than waiting to keep to everyone safe.

Roman Battaglia grew up in Portland, Ore, and now reports for Delaware Public Media as a Report For America corps member. He focuses on politics, elections and legislation activity at the local, county and state levels.
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