Booster shots coming to Montana prisons starting Tuesday

Vaccination rates in state prisons sit around 60%

By: - December 27, 2021 3:53 pm

Montana Department of Corrections

The Montana Department of Corrections will begin offering booster shots to people incarcerated within its prisons starting Tuesday.

The booster rollout comes as the omicron variant of the virus is driving a nationwide spike in cases. However, the department said there have been no known cases of the variants identified at any of its facilities.

“Everyone that qualifies for a booster and consents will receive a booster. At this time, the Clinical Services Division is working with facilities and inmates to see how many offenders are interested in receiving a vaccine,” a department spokesperson told the Daily Montanan.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, individuals who received a Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, the following groups are eligible for a booster shot at 6 months or more after their initial series:

Since Sept. 17, the last time the COVID-19 dashboard for the department of corrections was updated, an additional 37 incarcerated people and 38 staff members have contracted the virus — putting the total number of infections among prisoners at 1,047 and 310 among staff. And the department said vaccination rates in prisons remain at around 60%, compared to 52% statewide.

According to the Prison Policy Initiative, one year after the COVID-19 pandemic landed in the U.S., the virus has claimed more than 2,700 lives behind bars and infected one out of every three people in prison.

And a recent report released by the Prison Policy Initiative said state prison systems, including Montana, fail to provide COVID-19 data adequately.

“The DOC COVID-19 dashboard in Montana has not been updated for 88 days,” the Dec. 16 report read. “Publicly available and regularly updated COVID-19 prison data — including vaccination and booster data — are crucial for holding public officials, politicians, and legislatures accountable, as well as for helping families and the general public obtain even the simplest information about COVID-19 in their loved ones’ facilities and local communities.”

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Keith Schubert
Keith Schubert

Keith Schubert was born and raised in Wisconsin and graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2019. He has worked at the St.Paul Pioneer Press, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and most recently, the Asbury Park Press, covering everything from local craft fairs to crime and courts to municipal government to the Minnesota state legislature. In his free time, he enjoys cheering on Wisconsin sports teams and exploring small businesses. Keith is no longer a reporter with the Daily Montanan.