By WECT Staff | January 20, 2021 at 4:17 PM EST – Updated January 20 at 4:30 PM
RALEIGH, N.C. (WECT) – Vaccinations have begun in North Carolina prisons after receiving the first allocation of COVID-19 vaccines Wednesday morning.
Prisons received around 1,000 of the 1,300 vaccines allocated to the North Carolina prison system; the rest will arrive and be distributed within the next few days.
Many of the prisons’ eligible healthcare staff have been vaccinated already, so prison staff will administer the vaccines. The North Carolina National Guard is assisting in vaccinating staff.
“I urge everyone to get vaccinated,” said Todd Ishee, Commissioner of Prisons. “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. Science has thrown us a lifeline. Everyone should grab ahold.”
As supplies are still limited, the first allocation will be available for both staff and offenders in Groups 1 and 2 as outlined by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. This includes prison healthcare staff, staff who work with COVID-positive offenders, and staff and offenders age 75 or older. Vaccination is currently voluntary.
As more vaccine becomes available, the priority groups will be expanded to include staff and prisoners age 65 and older.
Around 14,000 staff work in the North Carolina prison system and there are currently around 29,000 prisoners.
Prison vaccine strike teams are being formed at individual prisons across the state to handle scheduling and administer the vaccination program.
“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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