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Florida inmates start to receive COVID-19 vaccine

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Posted at 7:41 PM, Apr 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-07 10:26:23-04

The director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management confirms state prison inmates who want the COVID-19 vaccine are starting to receive it.

This comes days after the I-Team reported Florida was one of less than a handful of states that had yet to make prison inmates and/or staff eligible for the vaccine.

RELATED: As COVID-19 vaccine eligibility expands, there's still no plan to vaccinate Florida prison inmates

On Tuesday, State Representative Jason Pizzo, D-Miami, tweeted that the wait to get people incarcerated vaccinated is over.

Jared Moskowitz told I-Team Investigator Kylie McGivern inmates began getting vaccinated late last week and that the Florida Division of Emergency Management is assisting in some locations. He did not say which locations.

Moskowitz said the Florida Department of Corrections plans to have on-site medical personnel vaccinate inmates who want the vaccine within 10 days upon receiving the vaccine.

Moskowitz said corrections officials have identified around 33,000 inmates who want the vaccine -- the same amount of doses expected to go out in the next week to the Florida Department of Corrections.

The Florida Division of Emergency Management said the state is also vaccinating staff and inmates at the seven private prisons the Florida Department of Management Services oversees. Three of the facilities have been scheduled to vaccinate staff and inmates.

The I-Team has contacted the Florida Department of Corrections, Florida Department of Health and the Governor's office several times over the last two months, including this week, asking about plans to vaccinate inmates.

RELATED: Full Circle Special Report: Florida prison staff, inmates wait on word for vaccine eligibility

In a February news conference, Governor Ron DeSantis blasted decisions by other states to prioritize vaccinating prison inmates, saying, “They’re vaccinating drug addicts instead of seniors.”

DeSantis stood firm on Florida’s approach to put seniors first in line.

“We’re looking out for parents and grandparents here in Florida. There’s no way you’re going to get some prisoner a vaccine over a senior citizen,” he said at the time.

At least 213 inmates and seven prison staff have died related to COVID-19, according to the Florida Department of Corrections.

The I-Team is working to find out what prisons have already received the vaccine, how many inmates have been vaccinated and if there is a priority to vaccinate certain inmates first like those 65 and older.

In a statement Tuesday night, the Florida Department of Corrections said:

"The Florida Department of Health and Division of Emergency Management are providing COVID-19 vaccines to the Florida Department of Corrections and Department of Management Services to vaccinate inmates in state correctional institutions and privately-operated correctional facilities. Approximately 33,000 inmates have indicated they would like to receive a vaccine.

The total number of vaccines distributed is a rapidly evolving number and will change daily. All vaccinations are counted by county of residency and are included in the county statistics on the Florida DOH website daily."

On Wednesday, the Florida Division of Emergency Management provided the following statement:

"The state expects to offer the vaccine to all staff and inmates at FDC facilities within two weeks. The state will provide enough vaccines for all staff members who want to receive one.

The three private prisons that have been offered the vaccine already are the Gadsden Correctional Facility, the Moore Haven Correctional Facility and the South Bay Correctional Facility. The state expects to complete vaccination efforts at these facilities by the end of this week."