As millions of Illinoisans are still waiting for their chance to be vaccinated against COVID-19, and even those who are eligible are scrambling for appointments, at least one group is largely giving up its place at the front of the vaccine line: people who work in Illinois prisons. […]
”I’m appalled because, of course, I think it’s pretty clear now from the science that the only way to stay safe from this deadly disease is to get vaccinated,” [Alan Mills, executive director of the Uptown People’s Law Center] said. “I’m not surprised because up until the vaccines, we also knew the best way to prevent the spread of the COVID virus was to wear masks. And what we hear from [inmates] is that the rate of mask-wearing among … guards was also abysmally low.”
The state started vaccinating most of its prison workers in mid-February and finished the first round of vaccinations at the state’s 25 correctional centers earlier this month. Only 27% of staff took the shot, according to the Illinois Department of Corrections. Experts say because prisons have been coronavirus hotspots, the low vaccination numbers endanger not only prison inmates and correctional officers, but also the families and communities the officers return to when they leave work. […]
Anders Lindall, a spokesman for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, said 4% more staff had signed up to be vaccinated this week, which would bring the total number of staff to get the first shot above 30%. AFSCME is the union that represents prison workers.
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