RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – North Carolina’s prison system received its first shipment of COVID-19 vaccines. In its first hour of vaccinations, the Department of Public Safety said it was able to process 40 people.
Members of the North Carolina National Guard were assigned to vaccinate prison health care workers so they can continue on to vaccinate corrections workers and offenders.
In a call with media on Thursday, prisons medical director, Dr. Arthur “Les” Campbell said the state prison system had already used about half of the 1,000 doses they received.
The Department of Public Safety is prioritizing the following groups:
- Prisons health care staff including those administering vaccines.
- Staff who work in COVID-positive housing units or who work directly with COVID-positive offenders.
- Staff and offenders age 75 or older. Vaccination opportunities will expand to age 65 or older based on vaccine availability,
The state’s prison system expects to have all inmates who wish to be vaccinated in the 75 and older group finished by the end of the week. This group holds than 200 people.
Staff will move to vaccinate the 65 years and older group next week while continuing to vaccinate staff.
Prison officials said Thursday they were seeing an increasing number of inmates and staff willing to take a vaccine. Still, some people are hesitant and have refused the vaccine. The state is considering an incentive program to get more inmates on board. More details on this are expected to be revealed next week.
This comes as officials said more than 500 prison employees are off work because they are either infected by COVID-19 or in quarantine after exposure to the virus. Current state data showed there are more than 400 inmates with COVID-19 across the state.
During their Thursday call with media, prison officials said high rates of vaccinations will allow prisons to resume programming crucial to rehabilitation of offenders.
So far, 41 prison inmates have died from COVID-19 while in state custody across North Carolina. Alexander Correctional Institute has had the most deaths at six.
While the percentage of tests coming back positive in prisons statewide is 1.4-percent according to DPS, some individual prisons are seeing high percent positive rates. Rutherford CC currently sits at 33.7-percent positive.
See the spread of COVID-19 cases in state prisons using the map below.