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Dozens of people held at Utah prison receive COVID vaccines

August 1, 2021 GMT
An inmate at the Utah State Prison in Draper, Utah, receives a dose of a COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday, July 27, 2021. Dozens of people received a free COVID-19 vaccine from a mobil vaccination clinic this week, with one man saying he wanted to get the shot so he could safely see his young child on visitation days. (Connor Richards/The Daily Herald via AP)
An inmate at the Utah State Prison in Draper, Utah, receives a dose of a COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday, July 27, 2021. Dozens of people received a free COVID-19 vaccine from a mobil vaccination clinic this week, with one man saying he wanted to get the shot so he could safely see his young child on visitation days. (Connor Richards/The Daily Herald via AP)
An inmate at the Utah State Prison in Draper, Utah, receives a dose of a COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday, July 27, 2021. Dozens of people received a free COVID-19 vaccine from a mobil vaccination clinic this week, with one man saying he wanted to get the shot so he could safely see his young child on visitation days. (Connor Richards/The Daily Herald via AP)

DRAPER, Utah (AP) — Dozens of new inmates at the Utah State Prison in Draper have received a free dose of the COVID-19 vaccine from a mobile vaccination clinic.

The doses were provided Tuesday by Nomi Health, a direct health care company that has coordinated vaccination and coronavirus testing efforts across the state, the Daily Herald reported.

“This event furthers Nomi’s mission to bring healthcare services to the people and being good stewards of the State by providing and activating the largest mobile COVID-19 testing and vaccination task force, in Utah,” the company said in a press release about the vaccination effort.

Around 9 a.m., a handful of Nomi health workers dressed in dark blue scrubs made their way past two stainless steel fences topped with razor wire and into the Uintas, a series of maximum security facilities at the prison where new offenders are admitted to the prison and “go through initial assessments,” according to the Utah Department of Corrections.

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Before entering the maximum security facility, the health workers, corrections officers and invited members of the media were all made to go through a body scanner and put on personal protective equipment, including N95 respirators, safety glasses, gloves and full-body garbs.

Half-asleep inmates peeked their heads outside the thin rectangle windows of their concrete cells with curiosity and confusion as health workers with clipboards and a portable freezer set up camp on a table in the commons area.

One at a time (for safety purposes), guards placed handcuffs on the inmate receiving the vaccine — as well as on their cellmate (again, for safety purposes) — and walked them out to get their shot.

Most of the inmates were quiet while receiving their dose of the vaccine, saying little more than their name when they were asked for it by one of the health workers holding a clipboard.

One of the inmates, Austin Stockard, said he wanted to get the vaccine so he could see his young child on visitation days without putting them at risk.

Salvador Marquez, one of the more outgoing inmates, joked with reporters that he would come back later to sign autographs.

Some of the inmates were worried about the effects of the vaccine or had questions about if they would need another dose.

“Is this going to make me fail my next COVID test?” an inmate shouted while being put back in his cell. “No,” one of the health workers told him.

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Carolina Herrin, vaccine director for Nomi Health, told the Daily Herald the health teams have “been going to the prison (and) to county jails just to kind of make sure that if that population wanted to get vaccinated, that they knew that the opportunity was there, that it was available to them, that they were able to choose if they wanted to.”

“The point of being in a prison is to hopefully rehabilitate, train, get programming and get back into society,” said Herrin. “And so we want to make sure that if they come back or if they have family (or) they have visitors that, if they want to, they have the ability to get vaccinated.”

She also noted that the health workers haven’t “run into any issues” and said “the safety and security of those vaccinating is usually (the) No. 1 (priority).”

Herrin said “a lot of inmates have chosen to get vaccinated” but did not provide specific numbers.

“It’s just as important for them to have that ability to get the vaccine as it is for anyone else,” she said.