While most U.S. prison systems find it difficult to vaccinate inmates, some, including California, exceed the immunization rates of most. And experts say their success may offer clues as to how to persuade people without hesitation outside of correctional facilities to get vaccinated.
“Education is really the key,” said Lauren Brinkley-Rubinstein, a professor at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine who leads the Covid Prison Project, a group that tracks coronavirus cases in the correction settings and collected data on vaccination rates. “Especially in a prison context, where there is a lot of reliance on health care staff and correctional staff, that the education side is even more important.”
At a California prison, inmates held a town -style meeting where medical experts answered questions about the safety of vaccines. In Rhode Island, former inmates are involved in helping develop an immunization plan for inmates. In Kansas, inmates are given priority to be vaccinated, and prisons provide vaccination information to relatives of inmates and to inmates themselves.
Nearly 73 percent of California inmates and Kansas prisons have received at least one dose of Covid vaccine, the project agreed. In North Dakota, another state with city-hall prison meetings, the rate is more than 80 percent.
In contrast, in North Dakota’s total vaccination rate 42 percent. California handles at least one shot in 56 percent of residents, and Kansas 47 percent.
Inmates are more at risk from Covid-19 than the general public, but many say they are vigilant both about vaccines and members of the prison medical staff who administer them.
Brinkley-Rubinstein and Aaron Littman, a law professor tracking the Covid-19 cases Behind the Bars Data Project at the University of California, Los Angeles, says providing information from knowledgeable sources – and managing inoculations where people live – makes it the easiest way to get permission.
“If people know exactly where to go and how to access, then it can be successful, even with people who are hard hit, routinely without services,” Drs. Brinkley-Rubinstein.
Kevin Ring, a prisoner former president of Families Against Mandatory Minimums, a group advocating for changes to sentencing laws, said that age pressure also has an impact on some prisons.
“You don’t have anyone to take it, but if everyone takes it and you’re in a small group of people-peer pressure can work in an anti-vaccine way,” he said. “People want to go back to unlimited movement throughout the prison, and they want to turn back time into their rec, and they want visits. And if they feel there are some weak links holding back, then I think there is more pressure on people. ”