NEW YORK (WKBW) — Inmates 65 and older in the New York State prison system will begin to receive the COVID-19 vaccine Friday.
During a COVID-19 briefing Friday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said the state is vaccinating those in prisons under the same guidance as those in the public. The vaccinations started Friday and include those 65 and older as well as the medically frail.
New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision spokesperson Thomas Mailey released the following statement:
There are 1,075 people who are in the system who are 65 and older, and DOCCS is in the process of preparing to vaccinate that population consistent with statewide guidance for that age group.
In a letter to Governor Cuomo on December 22, Erie County Sheriff Tim Howard called for prioritization of inmates and jail personnel as the administration selected groups to receive the initial doses of the vaccine.
New York State Senator Rob Ortt (R - 62nd District) issued the following statement on the matter:
The Governor's decision to quietly capitulate to left wing advocacy groups makes it clear where his priorities lie. Providing vaccines to prisoners over our vulnerable populations - including those with cancer, immune diseases, or other potentially fatal comorbidities - follows the politics, not the science. The Governor has made it clear he's not interested in listening to the Legislature. This decision makes it clear he's also not interested in hearing from vulnerable New Yorkers.
Governor Cuomo announced Friday the state is giving hospitals one more week to vaccinate its workers. After that, the state will reallocate remaining doses to local health departments. Those doses will then be used to vaccinate people with comorbidities.
Marc Priore is the president of the CSEA Erie Corrections Unit which represents corrections officers who work at the Erie County Correctional Facility in Alden. He agrees inmates should be vaccinated, but his main concern he says is his corrections officers.
"We've only had 10 vaccinations so far," he said.
He says corrections officers in Alden have only been offered 10 doses for a department of more than 200 officers. The group was eligible for the vaccine starting in 1B, but Priore says other Erie County workers have received the vaccine.
"All of which are not in the same confined area that my members are in," he said.
The Erie County Department of Health says:
“ECDOH has been administering vaccine to eligible Erie County employees, including those eligible in the Sheriff’s Office, from our limited allotment each week, and we will continue to do so.
Vaccine supply remains extremely limited. ECDOH has vaccinated more than 19,000 Erie County residents, and counting”
Priore says since the start of the pandemic, 45 officers and 60 inmates have tested positive for COVID-19, and it's the officers bringing the virus into the facility.
"I cannot begin to understand how we have fallen through the cracks," he said.