There have been many continued calls to prioritize COVID-19 vaccinations among incarcerated populations given their high and disproportionate risk of COVID-19 infection and death. Additionally, all individuals age 12+ are now eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations in the United States. Despite this, few systems are reporting vaccination data and the majority of systems reporting data have vaccinated their incarcerated population at a lower rate than the general population.
As of June 11, 2021, 28 states (AK, AL, AZ, CA, CO, CT, DE, GA, ID, KS, MA, MD, ME, MN, MO, NC, ND, NH, NJ, OH, PA, SC, TN, UT, VA, WA, WI, WV) have reported vaccination numbers for their incarcerated population. In the past week, OH has begun reporting vaccination numbers for their incarcerated population. Among states reporting data, 53% of the general population has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 64% of incarcerated populations have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. However, these percentages vary drastically by state. The percent of the population that has received at least one vaccine in prisons ranges from 42% in AL to 100% in ID and ME. Now, in 3 of the states reporting data (CT, DE, WA) the vaccination rate in the general population exceeds that of the prison population. CT and DE have vaccinated their incarcerated population at around 85% rate of its general population. In MA, MH, VA, and WA the vaccination rates between the general and prison populations are within 10 percentage points of each other. AK, AL, AZ, CA, CO, GA, ID, KS, MD, ME, MO, NC, ND, NH, NJ, OH, PA, SC, TN, WI, and WV have vaccinated their incarcerated populations at a higher rate than the general population. However, in some states where the vaccination of incarcerated populations exceeds that of the general population, vaccination of both populations remains low. For example, while AL has vaccinated its incarcerated population at a higher rate than its general population, AL falls far below the national average with only 36% of its general population having received at least one dose of a vaccine and its incarcerated population having the lowest percent vaccinated of all states reporting data at 42%.
We report the share of the total population that has received at least one vaccine dose. While an important public health metric, this does not equal the share that are fully vaccinated if the vaccine requires two doses. As states vary in the type of vaccines administered in prisons, the rate of the incarcerated population that is fully vaccinated varies across states. It is also possible that states’ rate of full vaccination varies between their general and incarcerated populations. The one exception is AZ, which is reporting those that are fully vaccinated. Thus, while 26,000 are fully vaccinated, it is possible that more incarcerated individuals have received the first dose of their vaccine.
Another important aspect of vaccinations is the prioritization of vaccinations in prisons, which varies widely by state. However, as all adults are now eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations in the United States, vaccines should be available for all incarcerated persons despite their state’s prioritization of them.
As COVID-19 spreads particularly rapidly in congregate settings, it is crucial that all incarcerated persons are offered the COVID-19 vaccine. Critically, herd immunity is based on how contagious a disease is, making it likely that the relationship between COVID-19 vaccination rates and slowing case rates looks differently in carceral settings than in the general population with more incarcerated persons needing to be vaccinated to slow the spread. It is also important that these data are transparently reported on public systems. It is only through these data that we can comprehensively understand the progress of the COVID-19 pandemic and the role that vaccinations are playing within carceral settings.
All data reported here comes from official dashboards reported by Departments of Correction. All data was pulled from state dashboards on June 11th. We do not publish data from the Federal Bureau of Prisons here as there is no relevant general population to compare the Federal Bureau of Prisons to. We have removed UT’s data as they stopped reporting raw vaccination numbers and instead report only percentages. The COVID Prison Project also analyzes media reports to track vaccination plans for states that are not reporting public vaccination counts.
In the past week we have updated our population denominator data using Vera’s 2021 data release. In the past year, while the majority of states have decreased their prison population, AK and ND have increased their population. The largest decrease was in WV followed by MT. These changes in population have affected our percentages presented here. In two states, ID and ME, the state has vaccinated enough people that have since been released that it appears that over 100% of their population is vaccinated. We thus report these states’ totals as 100%, realizing that not all incarcerated individuals may not have actually received the vaccine. Unfortunately, without individual level data, we are unable to confirm if all 100% of those that have passed through these states’ Departments of Corrections have received COVID-19 vaccinations.