The nationwide push to get "shots in arms" to contain the COVID-19 Pandemic is heading to local jail cells this week.  Officials with the Douglas County Health Department are coordinating efforts to get COVID-19 vaccine shots to the inmates at the County Jail.  The shots will be administered to those inmates who have requested them; approximately 60 inmates at the jail have registered an interest in receiving a COVID-19 vaccine.

While most of the inmates at the jail would have qualified for a shot already based on age and demographics, a variety of factors have prevented the vaccinations to this point.  Wisconsin residents 16 and older have been eligible for the vaccine since April 5.  However, according to an article in the Superior Telegram "additional barriers to access in a controlled jail setting" prevented that.  "Staff had to be trained to give the shots as medical personal can't be brought in." In addition, the jail had to apply to be a certified vaccination site; public health officials suggest that this part of the process took the longest.

The lack of shots for inmates has closed down the jail to outside visitors up to this point. Jail Administrator Tyler Edwards shared that "[w]e've basically had the jail shut down for safety reasons, and so we try to limit having almost no outside people coming in other than staff."

One other consideration was the two-shot procedure for Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.  Since jail administrators don't know and can't schedule how long inmates will remain in custody at the site they needed to use the Johnson and Johnson COVID-vaccine so that it could be 'one shot and done' for the inmates.  Edwards says that "[o]nce the get it, they're done."

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Even without the shots, the Douglas County Jail made it through the pandemic in pretty good shape considering.  Only 15 positive cases have been registered at the facility since March 2020, with the majority being "people [who come] in from the outside who already had the virus."

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