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State prisons begin virus vaccinations

Posted on January 25, 2021

Local newsCOVID-19
N.C. Commissioner of Prisons Todd Ishee, left, speaks with N.C. Air National Guard members at Central Prison in Raleigh in this image from the National Guard. Guard teams are working in partnership with the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Public Safety. These teams are mobile and can move to new locations and plug right into a county's health department vaccination operation when requested.

Contributed photo

N.C. Commissioner of Prisons Todd Ishee, left, speaks with N.C. Air National Guard members at Central Prison in Raleigh in this image from the National Guard. Guard teams are working in partnership with the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Public Safety. These teams are mobile and can move to new locations and plug right into a county's health department vaccination operation when requested.

Airman 1st Class Emily Riddles, assigned to the N.C. Air National Guard's 156th aeromedical evacuation squadron, prepares a COVID-19 vaccine shot at Raleigh's Central Prison in this image from the National Guard. Roughly 240 Guardsmen are on COVID-19 vaccination support missions across the state.

Contributed photo

Airman 1st Class Emily Riddles, assigned to the N.C. Air National Guard's 156th aeromedical evacuation squadron, prepares a COVID-19 vaccine shot at Raleigh's Central Prison in this image from the National Guard. Roughly 240 Guardsmen are on COVID-19 vaccination support missions across the state.

N.C. Commissioner of Prisons Todd Ishee, left, speaks with N.C. Air National Guard members at Central Prison in Raleigh in this image from the National Guard. Guard teams are working in partnership with the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Public Safety. These teams are mobile and can move to new locations and plug right into a county's health department vaccination operation when requested.

Contributed photo

N.C. Commissioner of Prisons Todd Ishee, left, speaks with N.C. Air National Guard members at Central Prison in Raleigh in this image from the National Guard. Guard teams are working in partnership with the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Public Safety. These teams are mobile and can move to new locations and plug right into a county's health department vaccination operation when requested.

Airman 1st Class Emily Riddles, assigned to the N.C. Air National Guard's 156th aeromedical evacuation squadron, prepares a COVID-19 vaccine shot at Raleigh's Central Prison in this image from the National Guard. Roughly 240 Guardsmen are on COVID-19 vaccination support missions across the state.

Contributed photo

Airman 1st Class Emily Riddles, assigned to the N.C. Air National Guard's 156th aeromedical evacuation squadron, prepares a COVID-19 vaccine shot at Raleigh's Central Prison in this image from the National Guard. Roughly 240 Guardsmen are on COVID-19 vaccination support missions across the state.

Airman 1st Class Emily Riddles, assigned to the N.C. Air National Guard's 156th aeromedical evacuation squadron, prepares a COVID-19 vaccine shot at Raleigh's Central Prison in this image from the National Guard. Roughly 240 Guardsmen are on COVID-19 vaccination support missions across the state.
N.C. Commissioner of Prisons Todd Ishee, left, speaks with N.C. Air National Guard members at Central Prison in Raleigh in this image from the National Guard. Guard teams are working in partnership with the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Public Safety. These teams are mobile and can move to new locations and plug right into a county's health department vaccination operation when requested.

The state’s prison system has received its first allocation of the coronavirus vaccine, and inoculations are underway.

N.C. Commissioner of Prisons Todd Ishee urged everyone to get vaccinated.

“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,” Ishee said. “Science has thrown us a lifeline. Everyone should grab ahold.”

Around 1,000 of the 1,300 vaccines allocated for the prison system have arrived, with more allocations expected to arrive for distribution soon. Prison officials received the Moderna vaccine. 

These will be the first vaccinations performed by prison staff. Over the past two weeks, many of the eligible prisons’ health care workers have been vaccinated through their local health departments.

Due to the current limited vaccine supply, the first round of vaccinations will be available for both staff and offenders in Groups 1 and 2, as discussed with the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, said John Bull, spokesman for the N.C. Department of Public Safety.

The first vaccinations will be offered based on supply to:

• Prisons health care employees, including those administering the vaccine.

• Staff members who work in COVID-positive housing units or who work directly with COVID-positive offenders.

• Staff members and offenders 75 and older. Opportunity will expand to those 65 or older based on vaccine availability.   

Vaccination is currently voluntary. Around 14,000 employees 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, Bull said in a press release.

Prisons receive direct vaccine allocations from the state health department, although the type and quantity of vaccines prisons receive depends on the type and quantity the state receives from the federal government each week. Prisons have been approved for enrollment in the COVID Vaccine Management System 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 in Raleigh, the Maury Correctional Institution in Greene County and state prisons in Scotland and Alexander counties. 

Health care staff at individual prisons will perform this week’s vaccinations. The North Carolina National Guard assisted in vaccinating staff from the region at Central Prison.

Upon receipt of vaccine in future weeks, prison vaccine strike teams with possible National Guard assistance will deploy to prisons across the state to administer the vaccines. 

The prison system has formed two six-member vaccine strike teams in each of the four prisons regions to deliver the vaccinations. These teams consist of nursing and logistical support staff members who, when the time comes, will have been vaccinated for COVID-19. Teams will be scaled up or down based on the number of vaccines to be administered at each facility, Bull said.

The strike teams will administer the vaccines and handle the necessary paperwork, including a schedule of who is vaccinated and when the second booster shots can be administered.

Additional qualified personnel, for example, those who have emergency medical services experience, have been identified to help administer the vaccines if necessary.

“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.” 

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