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Administration of COVID-19 vaccine in a prison. A middle-aged man in a mask receives intramuscular injection through bars of his cell.

The Virginia Department of Corrections has administered a COVID-19 vaccine to more than 50 percent of its inmates, far outpacing the rate of COVID-19 vaccinations seen elsewhere. More than half of DOC staff have also received the vaccine.

The DOC continues to get shots into arms at facilities across the state as they receive vaccines from the Virginia Department of Health.

Medical staff at the Virginia DOC worked intently with Virginia Department of Health officials, following CDC guidelines, as vaccines approached and received emergency approval. The DOC then started a massive education campaign to help inmates make informed decisions about the vaccine. Taking the vaccine is voluntary.

More than 13,000 inmates and more than 6,000 staff have received the first of two Moderna COVID-19 shots. All inmates who receive the first shot are scheduled to receive the second shot four weeks later.

Second doses are being administered now as well; approximately 3,000 individuals have received their second dose of the vaccine. The average daily inmate population in January was 23,811. 

“Vaccinating DOC staff and inmates makes the whole community safer,” said Virginia Department of Corrections Director Harold Clarke. “Not only are our staff going into the community each day, but sometimes people forget that if an inmate gets very sick with COVID and has to be hospitalized, that inmate is occupying a community hospital bed. Inmates are a part of their local communities.”

Global consulting firm Deloitte is assisting the DOC regarding the strategy for vaccine deployment in collaboration with VDH. The DOC also has a weekly consult with members of the University of Virginia’s infectious disease team regarding vaccine rollout.

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