Craig S. Semon|Telegram & Gazette
WEST BOYLSTONThe Worcester County Jail and House of Correction had its first two inmates inoculated with the COVID-19 vaccine.
Derrick Pitt of Middletown, Connecticut, and Christian Millett Sr. of Worcester, were both vaccinated Friday. Pitt received the first shot, followed by Millett. Both men took the shot in their left arm.
This is Phase 1 of the vaccine distribution, WorcesterCountySheriff LewisG.Evangelidis explained. It is determined by the federal government, distributed to the states and (the) state Department of Public Health has made a decision on who will be in Phase 1. Phase 1 are congregate housing units things like nursing homes, homeless shelters and jails are in Phase 1.
The two inmates were given the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. Based on evidence from clinical trials, the Moderna vaccine is 94.1% effective at preventing laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 illness in people who received two doses who had no evidence of being previously infected, according to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.
The reason I can feel justified as a sheriff with this decision is because we would much prefer people vaccinated inside our facility than the release that many people are advocating, Evangelidis said. We think the public safety will be served by vaccinating inmates and keeping them incarcerated rather than releasing them, as so many people are trying to do.
"On a daily basis, we have motions filed to release inmates. And, we would far prefer that they remain in custody and, with the vaccine, that should remove that concern.
Prior to the shots being administered, Evangelidis said he was proud of the two inmates stepping up and getting the vaccine.
This is the polite thing to do, for your own safety, for your fellow inmates, for the officers, for the community at large, Evangelidis said to Pitt and Millett.
Pitt, who rolled up his sleeve to his beefy arm, said he felt a little pinch, while Millett, whose arms are covered with tattoos, said he had to double check to see if he received the shot because he didnt feel anything.
Both men, who work in the kitchen and help prepare the food for inmates and staff, agreed on the importance of getting vaccinated.
I saw it as an opportunity to make sure I keep myself safe and people around me, Pitt said. I just want to make sure that Im healthy when I do go home. I dont want to bring anything back home to my family.
Im a father. I have three kids, Millett said. By me doing it, it shows that Im brave enough for my kids, so my kids will want to get it.
Pitt, who is due to be releasedin May, said he had no concerns about getting the shot.
My only concern is catching corona. Thats my only concern. I dont want to get sick, Pitt said. Its about life and the value of life. And, I value minea lot. There are people out there dying and I dont want to be one of the statistics.
Millett said he was concerned about getting the vaccine at first, but had a change of heart.
I got a bunch of tattoos, but Im still scared of needles, Millett said with a laugh.
Both men expressed the importance of the prison community getting vaccinated.
We live in close quarters. If one person gets sick, eventually all of us will get sick, Pitt said. Preventing ourselves from getting sick is just a good thing.
Keeping your hands clean and wearing a mask, that just doesnt completely stop this, Millett insisted. Getting the shot, its just another step to slow it down, until its eventually gone. It might not be fully gone, but, at least, it will fade away, just like the flu.
Pitt and Millett are very appreciative of being given the chance to get the shot.
This is the right thing to do, Pitt said. I am actually thankful that I have the opportunity to be able to take a shot.
Im grateful that the jail offered it to me, Millett interjected. It makes it so the inmate staff and civilian staff here dont get sick.
DavidH.Tuttle, superintendent of the facility, said they started receiving the vaccine for their staff and inmates two weeks ago.
The first dose we got of 100, DPH told us it had to go (to) the frontline of the jail. So, we did our nursing staff, the medical department, mental health and then the officers that work directly with the inmates coming in, Tuttle said. And then, starting last week, we got more doses in. And, we started doing the correctional staff that works in the housing units.
On Friday, Tuttle said they expected to finish all the correctional staff that wanted a shot, while starting on their civilian staff.
As for shots on Friday, 283 staff members of the jail were scheduled to get the vaccine, followed by 20 inmates, Tuttle said.
Next week, we plan on getting a hundred more doses, Tuttle said. There is still some correctional staff that wasnt here this week that wants to get it next week. And then, hopefully, we will go through our civilian staff and were going to increase the number of inmates, too.
In the case of Pitt and Millett being vaccinated, Tuttle said they decided to start with their workers first and, from there, move to the different housing units.
We went housing unit to housing unit and, personally, talked to every inmate, Tuttle said. So, we have a list of every inmate whos interested in taking the shot.
As for those inmates interested in getting the vaccine, Tuttle said its running around 50%.
We have about 568 inmates (Friday morning) and were participating between 250 to 300 (who) have said they will take the shot, Tuttle said. But, now what were finding is as we go around, the numbers varies. There are guys who said 'no' a couple of weeks ago that are now saying 'yes.' There are guys who said 'yes' that are now wavering on it. But, it is still averaging around 50%.
As of Friday, the Worcester County Jail and House of Correction has had 52 inmates and 57 staff members test positive for COVID-19 since March.
We have done a really good job of containing any outbreaks, Tuttle said. Right before Christmas, we had our first outbreak. We were 10 months into this before we had our first big outbreak. And, we were able to contain it to two housing units then.
Tuttle, who has taking the life-saving vaccine, said they are not disappointed with the number of inmates taking the shot. In fact, for a correctional facility, thats rather high, he said.
We werent part of the decision-making process to do correctional facilities first. But, on behalf of my staff and on behalf of the inmates here, I want to thank the governor and the folks that made this decision, Tuttle said. Corrections, sometimes, is thought oflast. Were not put first when it comes to budgets.
"When it comes to resources, were always thought of last. For them to think of us first, because of the situation that were in, were very thankful for that.
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