Oregon says it will begin delivering vaccines to inmates in the coming weeks.
A federal judge has ordered the Oregon Department of Corrections to immediately offer inmates COVID-19 vaccines.
US Magistrate Stacie Beckerman has issued an injunction to the group of state inmates behind the lawsuit, according to Oregon Public Broadcasting. While detainees have asked for more relief alongside easy access to coronavirus vaccines, Beckerman’s order will only force the state to offer more vaccination options.
OPB notes that Beckerman’s decision could affect more than 12,000 inmates across Oregon’s dozen prisons.
“The accused should offer everything [Adults in Custody] housed in [Oregon Department of Corrections] Facilities not offered a COVID-19 vaccine, a COVID-19 vaccine, ”wrote Beckerman.
Oregon, like many other states, has seen numerous – often uncontrolled – coronavirus outbreaks in its prisons and prisons. Prisoners are unable to socially distance themselves and usually lack sanitary facilities.
The difficulties of controlling infectious diseases behind bars were recognized by Collette Peters, director of corrections for Oregon.
In a statement, Peters said the coronavirus had created new challenges for the system and that mitigating the disease had been “extraordinarily difficult”.
Prison cells; Image by Carles Rabada, via Unsplash.com.
“Operationally, we are ready to offer and administer additional vaccines,” said Peters. “We know vaccines will slow the spread of COVID-19 in Oregon facilities for those who are in our care and in turn will protect our Oregon workers and communities.”
OPB notes that Oregon Governor Kate Brown was also named as a defendant in the lawsuit. Charles Boyle, a spokesman for Brown’s office, said the state has no plans to appeal Beckman’s orders.
“The court’s decision is clear,” said Brown. “We will be taking a weekly approach that includes adults in custody in our phase 1a distribution plans.”
Boyle said inmates will continue to be enrolled in Phase 1a, which should begin after seniors and educators receive their first doses of the coronavirus vaccine.
“However,” said Boyle, “it depends on the weekly vaccine supply we get from the federal government.”
Juan Chavez, one of several lawyers standing up for the inmates, said Beckman’s decision – though appreciated – merely corrected a grave flaw that should never have been in the beginning.
“This is a potentially life-saving decision,” said Chavez. “This puts them on the same level of priority as people who live in community care facilities like Oregon State Hospital, nursing homes, and assisted living facilities.”
Beckerman’s decision, OPB adds, coincides with local county-level decisions to begin vaccinating inmates in county jails.
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