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Some Duval County inmates vaccinated; newly eligible inmates still waiting

Inmates in state prisons also getting shots

After an outbreak that infected hundreds and the deaths of three inmates, more than two dozen people incarcerated at the Jacksonville Pre-Trial Detention Facility have been vaccinated against COVID-19.
After an outbreak that infected hundreds and the deaths of three inmates, more than two dozen people incarcerated at the Jacksonville Pre-Trial Detention Facility have been vaccinated against COVID-19.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – After an outbreak that infected hundreds and the deaths of three inmates, more than two dozen people incarcerated at the Jacksonville Pre-Trial Detention Facility have been vaccinated against COVID-19.

The medical contractor for the jail, Armor Correctional Health Services, said Tuesday that 70 inmates who were either older than 64 or “acutely ill” were offered the Moderna vaccine on March 15. A spokesperson for Armor said 35 of those inmates accepted the shot.

Since March 15, Florida Gov. Ron Desantis has expanded eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine. A week after inmates at the Duval County jail were vaccinated, DeSantis dropped the age of eligibility to those 50 and older. DeSantis dropped the age criteria again to those 40 and older the next week. On Monday, eligibility in Florida was extended to all adults 18 and older, with 16-year-olds and 17-year-olds able to get the Pfizer vaccine.

The contractor and health department have not returned to vaccinate more inmates since eligibility expanded to include all adults.

According to the Florida Department of Health in Duval County, Armor is in the process of making a list of newly eligible inmates who want to get the vaccine. Department of Health nurses and nurses for Armor are scheduled to go back to the jail to provide second doses on April 12.

In a statement Tuesday, Armor spokesperson J.P Hervis said state and county health departments ultimately decide who and when detention centers will receive additional doses.

“The entire Armor team is eagerly anticipating the opportunity for our healthcare professionals to administer the COVID-19 vaccine to every patient in our care that elects to receive it,” said Hervis. “State and county health departments are ultimately the custodians of who will receive and distribute the vaccine and when. Armor remains in consistent contact with those health departments and will administer the vaccine following the guidelines provided.”

By July 2020, more than 400 inmates had tested positive at the Duval County jail, 25 of whom were reportedly symptomatic, according to a Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office statement from that month.

Records show since the outbreak last summer at the jail, three inmates died from complications due to COVID-19. The deaths occurred in July and November 2020.

On Tuesday, Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Jared Moskowitz said inmates in state prisons are also being vaccinated.

“[Florida Division of Emergency Management] is assisting in some locations. [Department of Corrections] plans to have inmates that want the vaccine done within ten days upon receiving the vaccine with onsite medical personnel,” Moskowitz said.

The Department of Corrections told News4Jax that vaccines for inmates and staff have been scheduled at three of its seven facilities in Northeast Florida.

“To support the FDC, the state allocated 33,000 doses of the vaccine to their facilities,” Samantha Bequer, press secretary at Florida Division of Emergency Management, wrote in a Wednesday morning email. “Staff and inmates can decline to receive the vaccine, if they choose. The department will continue working the Department of Corrections and Department of Management Services to ensure all Floridians have access to the COVID-19 vaccine.”


About the Author:

Kelly Wiley, an award-winning investigative reporter, joined the News4Jax I-Team in June 2019.