Special to Iredell Free News
RALEIGH — The N.C. prison system has received its first allocation of coronavirus vaccine, and inoculations began Wednesday morning.
“I urge everyone to get vaccinated,” said Commissioner of Prisons Todd Ishee. “This is our best shot to protect the health and safety of our colleagues and their families as well as the men and women in our custody. Science has thrown us a lifeline. Everyone should grab ahold.”
Around 1,000 of the 1,300 vaccines allocated for the prison system this week have arrived, and the rest of the week’s allocation is expected to arrive and be distributed within days. This week’s allocation is the Moderna vaccine.
These will be the first vaccinations performed by prisons’ staff. Over the past two weeks, many of the eligible prisons’ healthcare staff have been vaccinated through their local health departments.
Due to the current limited supply of the vaccine, this week’s vaccinations will be available for both staff and offenders in Groups 1 and 2, as discussed with North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.
Based on supply, this week’s vaccinations will be offered to:
♦ Prisons healthcare staff including those administering vaccine;
♦ Staff who work in COVID-positive housing units or who work directly with COVID-positive offenders.
♦ Staff and offenders age 75 or older. Vaccination opportunity will expand to age 65 or older based on vaccine availability.
Vaccination is currently voluntary. Around 14,000 staff work in the prison system, and the offender population is 29,000.
Four prisons have been identified as regional hubs for vaccine deliveries throughout the prison system as vaccine supplies are made available from the federal government.
Prisons receives direct allocations of vaccine from the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, although the type and quantity of vaccines Prisons receives depends on the type and quantity the state receives from the federal government each week. Prisons has been approved for enrollment in the COVID Vaccine Management System (CVMS) to manage vaccine supply and track vaccine administration.
Personal protective equipment, ancillary supplies and other equipment necessary for providing vaccinations have been obtained and staged at the four vaccine distribution hubs: Central Prison, Maury, Alexander and Scotland.
This week’s inoculations will be performed by the healthcare staff at individual prisons. The N.C. National Guard is assisting in vaccinating staff from the region at Central Prison at least through Friday.
Upon receipt of vaccine in future weeks, prisons vaccine strike teams with possible assistance from the NCNG will deploy to prison facilities across the state to administer the vaccinations.
“The staff have worked so hard for so long with hope and prayer for a better day down the road,” said Ishee. “Now the vaccine is arriving at our prisons, and we can see a way to a future without this awful virus controlling so much of our lives. This is an important step.”