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Corrections officers not getting vaccinated as prison case numbers rising

Published: Mar. 29, 2021 at 5:24 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - Prisons are a massive concern as the virus reasserts itself in Michigan.

There have been more than 25,000 confirmed cases behind bars. That’s more than many entire counties have reported.

The Department of Corrections says that by next week every prisoner in Michigan will have been offered the vaccine. However, some inmates and corrections officers are hesitant to get the shot.

More inmates across Michigan are getting vaccinated as COVID cases climb in the state.

According to the state’s website, 60 percent of the inmates at the G. Robert Cotton Correctional Facility have gotten at least one dose. At Parnall and Charles E. Egeler, it’s about 28 percent of the inmates.

Still, some prisoners and corrections officers are skeptical.

“We’re a year into this pandemic and already such a high percentage of the staff and the prisoners have already tested positive for the virus that I don’t think the vaccine is necessarily that high on their priority list,” said Byron Osborn, Michigan Corrections Organization.

Earlier this year, prisoners and officers were asked if they would want the vaccine. About half said they would.

Right now, about 15,000 inmates have gotten at least one dose but MDOC doesn’t know exactly how many employees have been vaccinated.

“We know that about 1,300 of our employees got the vaccine based on the clinics that we put on based on the amount that we got from the state health department, but we do know that a number of our employees got it on their own,” said Chris Gautz, MDOC spokesman.

In order to reach herd immunity, a majority of the population needs to be vaccinated.

A concern for prisons that have already been hit hard by the pandemic.

“We couldn’t be more clear on our stance as a department that we want you to get the vaccine but it’s not required,” said Chris Gautz.

Gautz says MDOC is trying to educate prisoners and corrections officers about the vaccine through videos that include officers who have already been vaccinated.

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