Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Some states have higher COVID-19 vaccination rates in prisons than in the public

While most of the United States’ prison systems have struggled to vaccinate inmates, those in California and some other states have outperformed vaccination rates among the general public, reported The New York Times. And experts say their success may offer clues about how to persuade skeptical people outside correctional facilities to get vaccinated.

“Education is really 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 correctional settings and compiled the data on vaccination rates. “Especially in a prison context, where there tends to be a lot of distrust of both health care staff and correctional staff, that education piece becomes even more important.”

At one California prison, inmates held a town-hall-style meeting in which medical experts answered questions about the safety of the vaccines. In Rhode Island, formerly incarcerated people were involved in helping develop a vaccination plan for inmates. In Kansas, inmates were given priority for vaccinations, and prisons provided vaccine information to inmates’ relatives and to the inmates themselves.

About 73 percent of inmates in California and Kansas prisons have received at least one Covid vaccine dose, according to the project. In North Dakota, another state that has had prison town-hall meetings, the rate is above 80 percent.

By contrast, North Dakota’s overall vaccination rate is 42 percent. California has administered at least one shot to 56 percent of residents, and Kansas 47 percent.

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