BOSTON (WPRI) — As the distribution of the coronavirus vaccine ramps up across the country, the Massachusetts Sheriffs’ Association (MSA) is preparing to vaccinate inmates and their correctional staff.
Starting Monday, correctional facilities will begin vaccinating inmates and correctional officers simultaneously. They fall in the Bay State’s Phase One Priority, (D): Congregate Care, including both shelters and correctional institutions.
President of the MSA and Suffolk County Sheriff Steven Tompkins said they have been working “diligently” the state and their resident infectious disease specialist to ensure they are prepared.
“Our mandate is for the safe custody and care of those remanded to us by the courts, but we also have a critical responsibility for the health and safety of the men and women who deliver on that mandate,” Tompkins said. “These vaccinations protect both our incarcerated populations and the people who oversee their safety, which ultimately protects the health and safety of the general public.”
MSA Vice President and Hampden County Sheriff Nick Cocchi said he is hopeful the start of vaccinating those in Massachusetts congregate care centers will “mark a true turning point” in the pandemic.
“I think it’s important that correctional staff and the people in our care and custody are offered the COVID vaccine at the same time, not only from a medical standpoint to maximize immunity, but to build trust,” Cocchi said. “The vaccine is the subject of some skepticism, but I am encouraged by science. And I’m hopeful that our staff and the people whose health and safety we are responsible for will continue to be accepting of it through education and seeing others around them be inoculated.”
As of Thursday, nearly 1,000 health care professionals and COVID-facing staff have been vaccinated within the 14 Sheriffs’ Offices, according to the MSA.
Correctional facilities have been receiving vaccines from Moderna.
Once all inmates and correctional staff have been vaccinated, the MSA says it will continue teaching the benefits and risks of the vaccine and will be offered to new inmates and staff if requested.