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Florida state prisons slowly vaccinating inmates, but how many is unclear

The local pre-trial detention facility in Duval County, which reported more than 400 reported positive cases last summer, has also started administering shots.
The local pre-trial detention facility in Duval County, which reported more than 400 reported positive cases last summer, has also started administering shots.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Officials across Florida have slowly started vaccinating people incarcerated inside local jails since April.

In Bradford County, the sheriff allowed cameras into the jail as 29 people were given a COVID-19 vaccine in early April.

The local pre-trial detention facility in Duval County, which reported more than 400 reported positive cases last summer, has also started administering shots.

But much less is known about the vaccination effort inside Florida state prisons.

On April 7, the Florida Division of Emergency Management said it expected to offer the vaccine to all staff and people housed in state prisons, including private facilities, within two weeks. The Department of Corrections said it identified 33,000 people who wanted the shot.

But, despite multiple requests since April, the Department of Corrections has yet to report how many of those thousands received a vaccine.

In a statement, the agency said, “the total number of vaccines evolve and change daily as they are distributed.”

Florida State Senator Jason Pizzo said he has spoken to the legislative affairs director for the Department of Corrections regularly and has taken tours of the prisons where he has been told all the state prisons have been visited by vaccine clinics.

“I know that everyone who initially requested has received, and now they’re beginning [the] next round of those who didn’t initially request,” said Pizzo. “I don’t have a number, but I know that all institutions have been visited.”

People incarcerated in state and private prisons, as well as local detention centers, were not offered vaccines when their ages became eligible in Florida.

By April 7, when the state said it would begin offering vaccines to people housed inside state prisons. It had been more than a month since vaccines became eligible for those 65 and older. The age criteria in Florida expanded more than four times, to include younger age groups before it was offered to those who are incarcerated.

Armor Correctional Health, the medical provider for the Duval County Pre-Trial Detention Facility, first offered vaccines to 70 people inside the facility on March 15. At the time, only those 60 and older, could receive a shot. The next round of shots for people inside the jail was not offered until more than a month later April 27. In between the two vaccination opportunities, hundreds of more people housed inside the jail had become eligible.


About the Author:

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