NC prison to serve as vaccine hub for inmates; officials working on vaccination plan

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SNOW HILL N.C. (WNCT) – Maury Correctional Facility in Greene County will play a key role in prison vaccine storage and delivery.

Prisons are hot spots for COVID-19 cases and these shots are meant to help keep case numbers down.

Todd Ishee, Commissioner of Prisons for the N.C. Department of Public Safety, outlined his team’s vaccination plan.

“We have four- to six-member vaccine strike teams in each of our four prison regions to deliver vaccinations,” Ishee said.

Teams at these facilities are made up of nursing and logistical workers to schedule appointments. Officials say while vaccine distribution isn’t anything new, COVID-19 presents unique challenges.

“Administering vaccines is nothing new to prisons, in fact, we administer thousands of vaccines, such as the annual flu vaccine, each year,” Ishee said. “So the COVID vaccine isn’t really an issue for us, it’s an issue of scale.”   

Ishee said they’re still working out the logistics.

“At this point, we do not know which vaccine will be available, and when it will be available, or in what quantities,” he said.

Some may question how prison officials have a plan, without the actual vaccines. State leaders are working with local health departments to prepare for a variety of situations, and they do have some supplies.

“Personal protective equipment and auxiliary supplies, and other necessary equipment for storage and transport have been obtained,” Ishee said.

Prisons like Maury Correctional Institution are also receiving their vaccine doses from the federal government and are not taking away from supplies going to county health departments. 

As of Thursday, 36 North Carolina inmates have died from COVID-19. Five of those deaths were in the last week of December.  

Two bills signed by Governor Roy Cooper last summer focused on prison reform. 

House Bill 511 enforces sentencing reforms for nonviolent drug crimes. That would let judges go around “mandatory minimum” laws for drug users who get treatment for substance abuse and meet other requirements.  

The other bill, Senate Bill 562, lets people erase criminal records in certain cases. Having a criminal record can often make it difficult, if not impossible, to find a job or be approved for a lease or a loan.   

Even with these reforms, prisons are still dealing with high populations and are looking to distribute vaccines to those who want them.   

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