Cuyahoga County Jail Begins Offering COVID-19 Vaccines To All Prisoners

a row of coronavirus vaccine vials and a needle
More than 23,000 detainees in Ohio's prisons have been vaccinated so far. [Kunal Mahto / shutterstock]
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MetroHealth started voluntary coronavirus vaccinations for everyone at Cuyahoga County Jail Monday.

Just 105 of the approximately 1400 people held at the county jail are currently fully vaccinated. But when MetroHealth offered the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in two housing pods at the jail Monday, everyone accepted it on the first day, said Warden Michelle Henry.

In response, officials are working on ways to expand the program.

“They are going to put together a few additional teams that we could break off into several groups, as opposed to one group going into every housing unit,” said Henry.

Jail officials are offering incentives to anyone who’s been vaccinated, like regaining access to recreation areas at the jail. They’re also working on offering a free video visit to detainees after vaccination. People in jail currently pay for video visits.

MetroHealth is also offering second doses of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine for those who enter the jail having already received the first dose.

Summit County Jail vaccinated 147 of the estimated 515 people there during one week in March. The county plans to offer another round of shots in the coming weeks.

Officials at prisons in Ohio and jails in Cuyahoga and Summit counties have followed the state’s vaccine eligibility guidelines. All adults held at those sites are now able to get vaccinated.

As of Friday, 23,443 of the state’s 43,184 detainees, or about 54 percent, of the prison population had been vaccinated, compared to 43 percent in the state general population.

According to a prison spokeswoman, local medical staff at the prisons are administering either the Johnson & Johnson or Moderna vaccines and a shot is available to any adult at their facilities who wants one.

Early in the pandemic, prisons in Ohio were hotspots. When all the men held at one facility, Marion Correctional Institution, were tested, 80 percent came back positive for coronavirus.

To date, 10 prison staff and 135 incarcerated people have died from COVID-related causes, according to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections.

State prison officials are offering financial incentives to get vaccinated — $5 per shot or $10 for recipients of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

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