TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - For months, vaccine clinics, pharmacies, and providers have been working to get the COVID-19 vaccine in people’s arms. Last week, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice received a large number of allocations to their facilities, increasing the number of people they can vaccinate. They’ve been able to vaccinate close to 50,000 inmates statewide.
“We began vaccinating in significant numbers just last week, and we were able to do more than 25,000 of those doses in just a several day period last week and we’re continuing with the capacity to do upwards of ten thousand a day if we’re able,” said Jeremy Desel, director of communications for Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
According to the state’s website, East Texas units are receiving anywhere from 100 to 400 first doses of the Moderna vaccine this week. Diesel said staff began getting the vaccine several months ago and in the last few weeks, inmates began getting them.
“We’ve been prioritizing first the 65 and over inmate population and then moving on to the general inmate population, which right now those vaccines are available to all that are ready to line up, and we’re giving them as quickly as we can give them,” Desel said.
The vaccine is optional for inmates and staff, and units have received all three kinds of vaccines, Desel said. Johnson and Johnson, Pfizer, and Moderna vaccines are all administered by TDCJ’s health care partners at the University of Texas Medical Branch and Texas Tech Health Sciences Center.
“Ideally, obviously we would like to see everyone vaccinated because the only real way to stop this pandemic in its tracks is to make sure that people aren’t going to be getting COVID-19,” Desel said. “A campaign that’s directed directly to inmates with inmates speaking to other inmates about the pros of taking the vaccine and the need to get that vaccine as rapidly as possible.”
According to the TDCJ website, there are currently 130 inmate and 301 employee active cases in the state.
“Right now the numbers in and around TDCJ, whether you’re looking at employee numbers or inmate numbers, are the lowest that they have been since the early weeks of the pandemic,” Desel said.
There is no current correlation between vaccines and visitation, Desel said, and their visitation policies will remain the same for the time being.