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Inmates refuse inoculations; new vaccine arrives in state

March 3, 2021 GMT

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — More than 200 inmates at the federal prison in Danbury, Connecticut, have declined to get vaccinated against COVID-19, including numerous medically vulnerable prisoners who have been seeking release to home confinement due to concerns about the coronavirus, according to federal officials.

Federal prosecutors disclosed in a new court document filed Tuesday that nearly 550 of the approximately 800 inmates at the prison complex have been offered a COVID-19 vaccine and 336 have received at least the first of two doses. Another 212 inmates declined.

Some inmates may be worried or confused about the safety of the vaccines, or do not trust them, said Ariadne Ellsworth, a Yale Law School student and member of the legal team representing Danbury inmates who filed a class-action lawsuit accusing federal officials of not doing enough to protect them from the coronavirus.

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“Our understanding is that, as more information has become available and individuals have had more opportunities to educate themselves about the vaccine, a number of class members who initially declined the vaccine have since informed the facility that they are now willing to take it,” Ellsworth said.

The Connecticut U.S. attorney’s office filed the new document as part of the class-action lawsuit, which was settled last July. The federal Bureau of Prisons agreed to promptly identify prisoners who are low security risks and are at higher risk of developing serious COVID-19 complication, and release them to home confinement.

Prison officials say inmates who decline vaccinations without a documented medical reason will not be given further consideration for home confinement. Officials say they are continuing to consider home confinement for inmates who accept vaccinations, up until the time they are fully inoculated, usually two weeks after receiving the second dose.

Asked about inmates refusing vaccinations, the Bureau of Prisons said in a statement Wednesday that it does not comment on pending legal matters and is not providing the number of federal prison staff and inmates nationwide who have declined the vaccines.

In other coronavirus developments in Connecticut:

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NEW VACCINE ARRIVES

Connecticut has received its first doses of the newly approved Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine and has begun giving the one-shot inoculations to eligible people.

The Yale New Haven Health system received 7,400 doses of the new vaccine Tuesday, and Hartford HealthCare received the same number of doses Wednesday morning.

State officials expect Connecticut to receive at least 30,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine this week, in addition to 100,000 doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, which require two shots.

Hartford HealthCare officials said the new vaccine is a big boost to efforts to speed up inoculations around the state.

“They’re safe. They’re effective. Effective specifically around preventing severe illness, preventing ICU admission, and definitely preventing death,” said Keith Grant, senior system director of infection prevention at Hartford HealthCare.

People ages 55 to 64 as well as school employees in Connecticut became eligible for the vaccines Monday. The state previously made vaccines available to nursing home residents, health care workers and people 65 and older.

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BY THE NUMBERS

The number of people reported hospitalized with COVID-19 rose by 28 on Wednesday to 451. That is still well down from the 900 coronavirus patients who were being treated in hospitals at the beginning of February. The state also reported 20 news virus-related deaths, bringing the total during the pandemic in Connecticut to 7,678.

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Follow AP’s coverage of the pandemic at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.