WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Local sheriff’s offices are working toward giving more inmates the COVID-19 vaccine in their efforts to contain and prevent the spread of the virus inside jails and ultimately out into the community.
Nearly a dozen Martin County inmates received their first voluntary dose of the Moderna vaccine Thursday. If they are still incarcerated in June, they will receive their second dose. If they are released, they have been given instructions on how to make sure they get their second dose.
“They were very concerned, they actually wanted to know what we were going to do and how we were going to ensure their safety,” said Major Patricia Oslinger at the Martin County Jail.
Martin County started giving vaccines to inmates within the last two weeks, as inmate vaccinations ramp up following slow rollouts nationwide.
“I think it’s wonderful and we’re very pleased with the results. We’ve had 91 inmates accept out of 450, 91 have accepted the vaccine,” Oslinger said.
She said the jail did a second survey amongst inmates Thursday, and 43 more inmates said they want the vaccine.
In a study, the CDC said it expects less than half of inmates to want the vaccine.
“It doesn’t surprise me, there’s mistrust in the community with the vaccination, so it doesn’t surprise me,” Olinger said, but she is glad to be able to provide for the inmates that want it.
Currently, four Martin County inmates are positive for COVID-19, though the jail was largely untouched by the virus over the last year.
“We went basically a year without any type of exposure to any inmates that were in our facility whatsoever,” Olinger said.
The St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office said 191 St. Lucie County inmates have tested positive for COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic. Currently, nine inmates are positive.
St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer Bryan Beaty said they are currently surveying the inmate population to determine their interest in being vaccinated. That should be done this week and then a plan will be implemented to start vaccinations.
Palm Beach County inmates started receiving vaccines within the last few weeks, and teams have administered 519 doses, according to sheriff’s office spokeswoman, Teri Barbera.
The Indian River County jail administered vaccines to inmates beginning in January through Treasure Coast Health Care. More than 120 inmates have been given at least one dose.
“They deserve the same respect and same care as if they were out in the community. So, if we have the opportunity to offer that, it is our job to provide that,” Oslinger said.