Soon. In fact, some prisoners already received the COVID vaccine. The Bureau of Prisons provided a report on its COVID vaccine response in January. At the time, it said that it gave vaccines at more than half of its facilities. The same report says that it plans to deliver the vaccine to all of its federal prisons by the middle of February.
Which federal prisoners will get the COVID vaccine first?
Some prisoners will get the COVID vaccine before others. The BOP has a policy noting the order in which prisoners will get vaccinated:
- Prisoners who work in health service and who live in care units. The BOP will give the first run of vaccines to two groups. One includes prisoners working at health services in the facility. The other includes prisoners who live in long-term care facilities such as nursing care.
- Prisoners over 65 and high-risk people. Seniors not included in the first group will get their vaccine with group two. The BOP will also follow CDC guidelines to decide who is at a high risk. The BOP will include these prisoners in group two.
- Prisoners between the ages of 50 and 64 and others with risk factor. The next group includes any prisoners aged 50 to 64 who didn’t get the vaccine yet. It also includes people with COVID risks that are below the high risks of the second group.
- All other prisoners. At this stage, any BOP prisoner can get the vaccine.
To date, the BOP has given over 45,000 vaccinations. That number includes both prisoners and staff. You can see more detailed numbers on the BOP’s website.
When will people in state prisons get the COVID vaccine?
It’s complicated. Many states are debating when state prisoners will get the COVID vaccine. Overall, the issue is very political.
Some states made prisoners a priority for vaccines during the pandemic. Others are going even further. For example, North Carolina is giving incentives to prisoners who get the vaccine. Virginia and Delaware have similar programs. These incentives include things like extra “good time” and commissary credits.
In other states, prisoners are not a priority. One example is Colorado. The state planned to give prisoners the vaccine early. But the governor and others disagreed with this policy. Since then, the state has pushed prisoners further down the list.
Can you refuse the COVID vaccine in prison?
Yes. Prisoners can refuse the COVID vaccine. Correctional offices and other officials cannot force you to take it.
In some states, prisons reward people for taking the vaccine. You could get time off of your sentence. Other states may offer prisoners extra family visits. If you are in state prison, check your state’s laws to see if any of these benefits apply to you.
You should remember that COVID is now very common in prisons. And people in prison are more likely to die from COVID than people outside of prison. You may want to consider this before you turn down the vaccine.
Most federal prisoners should get their first dose of the COVID vaccine soon. The BOP has already started vaccinating prisoners. There is a priority list for different groups of prisoners. Different states have different vaccine policies for prisoners. Some are giving incentives to those who get the vaccine. If you do not want to get the vaccine, you can refuse it.