Published on: Monday, March 1, 2021

Jail and prison populations are at a particularly grave risk for Covid-19, but incarcerated people are absent from many state vaccine distribution policies, and federal authorities have stayed silent (article available here). 

The underlying disease risk is clear: Covid-19 infection rates in prisons are four times as high as those in the general population. In many facilities, it is impossible to achieve the steps that health officials say are vital to slowing the pandemic’s spread — frequent handwashing, universal mask-wearing and staying 6 feet apart, ideally outdoors. At least 2,446 prisoners have died of Covid-19.

The heightened danger of being incarcerated and unvaccinated has prompted the American Medical Association among others to call for prioritizing vaccines for prisoners. Two and a half months into the vaccine rollout, the Bureau of Prisons reported that as of Monday, 10,446 prisoners — out of the 138,213 in BOP-managed facilities — had received a vaccine.