“Because of decades of mistrust with prison health care and health care more generally in communities of color, there must be a robust plan for the state Health Department or some other health agency that isn’t DOCCS to distribute, administer and provide state-of-the-art education associated with the vaccine and COVID-19,” Grady said.
Because it could take months to develop such a plan, Grady urged Gov. Andrew Cuomo to release aging inmates from prison.
The announcement that DOCCS would begin administering COVID-19 vaccines to inmates was met with some opposition. State Sen. Rob Ortt, the top Republican in the state Senate, blasted Cuomo and claimed the governor capitulated to “left-wing advocacy groups.”
“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,” Ortt, R-North Tonawanda, said.
Cuomo did say on Friday that residents with comorbidities, including cancer, heart disease and other chronic health conditions, will be eligible to receive the vaccine beginning Feb. 15.
As COVID-19 spread across New York, it also entered state correctional facilities. Since the pandemic began in March 2020, there have been 5,227 confirmed cases among the incarcerated population and 4,417 staff cases. Parolees account for 244 cases.