The Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation wrapped up its first round of vaccinations across North Dakota’s prisons on Thursday, immunizing both staff and prisoners.
The vaccines weren’t mandated but encouraged.
Corrections Officer Dan Lukach was vaccinated. He says it’s something he’s been looking forward to for months.
“I want to be a part of the solution to this, to continue to keep people safe around me and just continue to move forward,” shared Lt. Lukach.
Depending on the facility, between 70-85% of inmates opted to get the shot.
Immunizing at the prisons has been the plan — handed down from the Vaccination Ethics Committee, according to a DOCR health official. Staff and prisoners fall under tier 3 of Phase 1B because these are congregate living facilities, some housing up to 20 people in a room.
Altogether, state prisons recorded more than 500 infections among prisoners in the last year.
We asked state Correctional Health Authority Dr. John Hagen what he would say to those who have been waiting for the vaccine and feel like they should come before those in prison.
“You know, I can understand why someone would feel that way. We really, very much want everyone to get a vaccination,” Dr. Hagen said.
“…I guess I would say it’s the Vaccine Ethics Board that gave us the opportunity. We followed DOH rules and I’m very pleased because we’ve had so many infections, and we’ve had some deaths.”
In about 21 days, they’ll do it all again to be fully vaccinated. Two weeks after that, visitation will begin to open back up after a year of closure. Visitors will each be given a rapid test to make it possible.