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Cuyahoga County offers vaccines to jail inmates

Currently, only about 10% vaccinated
Posted at 4:52 PM, May 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-18 18:58:58-04

CLEVELAND — Cuyahoga County jail inmates are the latest to join a growing a list of Ohioans getting vaccinated against COVID-19.

The sheriff's department said it began offering vaccines to inmates in the county jail earlier this month.

At first, only older inmates and those with pre-existing medical conditions were eligible for the shot, but starting last week, the sheriff said all inmates behind bars were given the opportunity to get vaccinated.

Since the pandemic began, nearly 1,000 inmates in the jail tested positive for COVID-19.

The sheriff's department said only 144 of the jail's 1,510 current inmates received vaccines.

During a video conference with the county council's public safety committee Tuesday, Sheriff Christopher Viland said the jail is hoping to increase that number.

Inmates are being offered incentives like more recreation time and a free video visitation if they elect to receive the single-shot Johnson & Johnson shot.

The sheriff hoped by increasing the percentage of the vaccinated jail population would increase flexibility in housing inmates and limit the need to quarantine people behind bars.

But with inmates coming and going every day, Viland said getting everyone in the jail vaccinated has its challenges.

"You have to remember that some of these people in the jail are people who don't want to necessarily be told by the government what should happen," said Viland. "It is a voluntary process. However, we have sent our corrections staff directly into many of the inmate populations and when we do that and explain what's going on, the response rate is actually quite high. In some cases, certain pods have volunteered at 100%."

In addition to the single-shot vaccines, the sheriff said inmates who already received the first doses of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines are given the chance to receive the second doses while behind bars.

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