Federal Bureau of Prisons reverses on withholding COVID-19 vaccine from inmates

The Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) said in a statement Tuesday that it would begin giving vaccinations to inmates, reversing a previously reported order that reserved doses for staff members.

The Associated Press reported in November that documents obtained from BOP revealed that although coronavirus rates were surging in inmate populations, vaccinations would be “reserved for staff” when they are received.

When explaining its vaccination process, BOP said earlier on Tuesday it planned to offer vaccines to full-time bureau staff members, saying doing so “protects the staff member, the inmates at the facility, and the community.” 

However, BOP spokesman Justin Long told the AP, “At this time, we can confirm high risk inmates in a few of the BOP facilities in different regions of the country have received the vaccine.”

The AP noted that BOP has not stated how many inmates have been vaccinated or what the selection process is. It is also unclear at this time how many doses of the vaccine BOP has received.

The AP also reported that 3,624 federal inmates and 1,225 BOP staff members have tested positive for COVID-19 so far, with 171 inmate deaths due to the coronavirus.

At the moment, the U.S. has two coronavirus vaccines — by Pfizer and Moderna — that have been granted emergency use authorization by the Food and Drug Administration. Moderna’s vaccine began being administered this week after receiving approval on Friday.

Most governments have planned to prioritize the vaccine for front-line health care workers and those at high risk of developing severe symptoms such as the elderly.

Several members of Congress have received the vaccine, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).

President-elect Joe Biden and his wife, Jill Biden, received their first doses on Monday. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious diseases expert, and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar received their first doses on Tuesday.

Tags Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Anthony Fauci coronavirus vaccine COVID-19 pandemic Federal Bureau of Prisons Joe Biden Marco Rubio US prison population
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