Polis says Colorado inmates won’t receive COVID vaccine before vulnerable populations

Coronavirus

DENVER (KDVR) — Gov. Jared Polis says there is “no way” Coloradans in jails and prisons will receive the COVID vaccine before people that have not committed any crime. 

The governor announced those changes during a press conference with Dr. Anthony Fauci Tuesday. 

Colorado’s initial plan, submitted to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in October, called for incarcerated adults to be vaccinated before adults over the age of 65 and adults with serious health conditions. 

“There’s no way it’s going to go to prisoners before it goes to people that haven’t committed any crime,” Polis said Tuesday. “That’s obvious.”

Tuesday, the Colorado Department of Corrections announced four additional inmate deaths due to COVID-19, bringing the total to 11. 

Records show half of the state’s 10 largest outbreaks have been at correctional facilities, where advocates say inmates have little choice over social distancing. 

“That’s not possible to do,” says Denise Maes with the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado. “In that setting, there is no way that you can adhere to the CDC guidelines of distancing.” 

Maes called the governor’s comments “unfortunate,” and says incarcerated adults should be prioritized for vaccination. 

“There are many individuals in our jails who are frankly innocent. They are there pre-trial, simply because they cannot afford to pay bond,” said Maes. “The notion that he’s trying to demonize the individuals in those jails is really unfortunate.”

In an email, a spokesperson for Polis says the state’s final vaccination plan should be ready in the coming days: 

“CDPHE submitted a draft plan to the CDC per their deadline of Oct. 16th for draft plans. We are expecting the CDC to release updated guidance in the coming days, the Governor will review that new guidance from the CDC then issue a final plan for the state of Colorado.”

A spokesperson for Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said they expect that plan to be released next week:

“The state submitted a draft vaccination plan to the CDC, expecting that it would evolve. We are continuing to determine the exact phasing of the vaccination distribution, which will be done to be as fair and effective as possible. The revised plan will be released next week.”

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