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SCI Waymart has received 1,100 doses and SCI Laurel Highlands has received 1,400 doses of the Moderna vaccine. SCI Muncy will be the next long-term care facility to receive the vaccine for their female population. The first vaccines have been distributed to SCI Laurel Highlands and SCI Waymart will begin distribution on Feb. 18. Over the past month, each state correctional institution has procured the proper storage and ensured emergency storage is available to maintain the integrity of the vaccine. All institutions are currently conducting educational campaigns directed toward encouraging staff and inmates to take the vaccine while preparations are underway.
Approximately five percent of our population are age 65 or older and a large percentage are housed at our long-term care facilities – SCI Laurel Highlands, SCI Waymart and SCI Muncy (female). Those facilities will offer the vaccine to staff and inmates first because they are the most medically vulnerable and both institutions serve as a nursing home-type facility with more than half of their population being 65 and older. As of January 31, the prison housed a little more than 800 people, one-third of whom were listed as in infirmary care.
SCI Waymart operates a Drug and Alcohol Unit, a 90-person Personal Care center and a specialized unit that houses the DOC's most intensive mental health treatment center.
The vaccine will be offered to inmates who meet the following criteria:
- Inmates who are not currently on isolation or quarantine for testing positive for COVID-19
- Inmates who are not currently on isolation or quarantine for suspicion of having COVID-19
- Inmates who are currently reporting no symptoms and are not presenting with any signs or symptoms related to COVID-19.
The vaccine will be offered to staff who meet the following criteria:
- Staff who are not currently on quarantine for testing positive for COVID-19
- Staff who are not currently on quarantine for suspicion of having COVID-19
- Staff who are currently reporting no symptoms and are not presenting with any signs or symptoms related to COVID-19.
The vaccine is good until the expiration date (approx. six months) as long as it stays frozen. Once thawed, it is only good for 12 hours at room temperature. Once a vial is punctured, it is only good for 6 hours at room temperature. The vials cannot be re-frozen.
Everyone knows that prisons are breeding grounds for infectious diseases like COVID-19, largely because inmates live so close together. By any reasonable standard, incarcerated people should rank high on the priority list because when outbreaks occur inside prisons, they can endanger people on the outside, too. Prison staff members can carry the virus to their family members and ultimately the community. Getting vaccinated will help protect you from getting COVID-19. There is a 90-95% efficacy in preventing the virus two weeks after getting the second dose – so if everyone gets the vaccine and builds immunity, there will be less likelihood of exposure or transmission. Additionally, once an inmate receives both doses, $25 will be added to the inmate's account. This statewide inmate incentive comes from the Inmate General Welfare Fund which is NOT taxpayer funding from the General Fund appropriated by the General Assembly.
DOC leadership has been vocal proponents of offering staff incentives for getting the vaccination. If we could get 70% of the DOC staff vaccinated by the end of March 2021, $23M of our overtime expenses could be avoided due to a reduction in the use of COVID-19 leave. We are hopeful all staff will choose to be vaccinated to protect themselves, their coworkers and families and our inmates.
Each inmate that receives the vaccine will be offered the 2nd dose of the vaccine four (4) weeks from the date they receive the 1st dose. An inmate must be in the DOC system longer than 28 days in order to get both doses of the vaccine. Inmates must either sign a consent form or refusal regarding the vaccine. Vaccine cards will be maintained by the institution until release of inmate to ensure it is not misplaced.
Staff will report to the medical outpatient area at predetermined time frames to receive their vaccination. Staff will need to understand that they must report back to medical for their 2nd dose of the vaccine in exactly 28 days.
Yes, the DOC is tracking all data and will include details on its COVID-19 dashboard in the near future.
Non-medical staff and inmates will most likely get it at the same time.
While no one is required to get the vaccine, we will focus on encouraging vaccination for those inmates in the long-term care setting who are most vulnerable.
Masks will continue to be mandatory per the PA Department of Health guidelines.
Right now, we plan on no in-person visits for the foreseeable future. We encourage family and friends to utilize our video visitation program in the meantime.
We will continue to monitor our inmate population based on symptomatic patients and surveillance testing when appropriate.
It is still very hard to predict what the new "normal" will be. However, we will likely operate within a new "normal" plan that assumes only a half or a third of any facility operational at once.
All inmates upon reception will be offered the vaccine once available.