The Alabama Department of Corrections is to begin administering COVID-19 vaccine to some incarcerated people Wednesday, but it’s still unclear when the total population inside Alabama’s prisons will be offered vaccines.
Last week’s severe weather resulted in lower turnout at community vaccination appointments, according to a press release from the department.
“This produced a surplus of defrosted Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine that will expire and go to waste if not used immediately,” ADOC said in the release.
The department plans to offer 1,400 doses to incarcerated people at Bullock Correctional Facility in Union Springs. Vaccinations are to be administered by the Alabama National Guard and are done on a voluntary basis, the department notes. Required second doses of the Pfizer vaccine are to be administered by the Alabama National Guard.
There have been 63 deaths among Alabama inmates who tested positive for COVID-19 either before or after death and three COVID-19 deaths among prison staff.
Alabama’s prison system is ranked as sixth-highest in COVID-19 deaths in the nation, per 100,000 inmates, according to a joint project by The Marshall Project and The Associated Press.
Inmates are among the most vulnerable population from coronavirus, due to an inability to social distance inside prisons, and should be prioritized for vaccinations, according to the American Medical Association.
Incarcerated people in Alabama have been eligible for vaccinations for 51 days, but ADOC has been slow to begin the process of vaccinating the vulnerable population.
An ADOC spokeswoman told APR on Feb. 24 that the department in October had ordered refrigeration equipment for prisons to store the only two vaccines on the market at the time: Pfizer, which requires ultra-cold storage, and Moderna, which can be stored in a regular freezer. Alabama received its first shipment of the Johnson & Jonson vaccine, which can be stored in a regular refrigerator, in the first week of March.
“The ADOC is in the process of finalizing its plan to provide vaccines to inmates who wish to receive a vaccine when more doses become available and after all staff who wish to participate in this process are inoculated,” ADOC said in Tuesday’s press release.
ADOC on March 17 announced the department had received 4,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and began vaccinating prison staff. As of Tuesday, 487 workers had been vaccinated by ADOC, although the department noted the figure does not include workers who were vaccinated outside the department’s system.
There have been 1,600 cases of COVID-19 confirmed among incarcerated people, 44 of which remain active, according to ADOC.