Vaccines first became available to the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation about a month ago.
The DOCR teamed up with a group of Department of Health nursing staff to host a mass vaccine clinic, where about 70 to 85 percent of inmates were ready to get vaccinated.
“We alerted folks two and three weeks ahead of time that we would be doing this, provide information to people, answer a lot of questions, did some townhall both with the residents and staff so they could ask questions about what’s going on and what will occur,” explained John Hagan, the North Dakota State Correctional Health Authority.
The department says it’s not hesitancy it’s seeing in its inmates, but more of just not knowing,
That’s where education comes in not just for inmates but for staff too, providing materials on the tablets inmates already use and creating new content about the vaccines.
“Really a lot of different information. We actually had balanced opinions. We had a piece that’s on YouTube in fact that talks to two staff members. One that chose the vaccine, one that did not and why that is,” explained Hagan.
So far 935 inmates have received their first dose, 908 have gotten a second dose and 49 have received the single dose of Johnson & Johnson.
While a single dose vaccine would be the preferred, vaccines being used in the North Dakota prison system is Pfizer.
“Any of the one-dose vaccines are an ideal situation for all of our folks in jails, for our folks in prison and for our homeless crowds. So folks who can’t, don’t have housing security. They can’t count on being in the same place three and four weeks apart or don’t have control of that,” said Hagan.
Although getting a vaccine is not required for an inmate Dr. Hagan says as the weeks go by more and more are willing to do so
“You lose so many rights and privileges when you come to prison, you don’t lose that right to determine your healthcare,” explained Hagan.
Hagan says inmates just coming into the system are asked if they’ve already gotten the vaccine if not they are offered it.
He says the acceptation rate among those incoming prisoners is about 50 percent.