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, not all systems are reporting vaccination data and states are vaccinating their incarceration at a slower rate than is necessary.
As of June 30, 2021, 29 states (AK, AL, AZ, CA, CO, CT, DE, GA, ID, KS, MA, MD, ME, MN, MO, NC, ND, NH, NJ, OH, OR, PA, SC, TN, UT, VA, WA, WI, WV) have reported vaccination numbers for their incarcerated population. No new states have begun reporting data recently. Among states reporting data, 55% of the general population has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 65% 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 43% in AL to 78% in ND. In 3 of the states reporting data (CT, NH, WA) the vaccination rate in the general population exceeds that of the prison population while in the other states, the vaccination rate in the prisons exceeds that of 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. Since our last report, GA has administered the most vaccinations within its prison system. However, six states have not reporting any increase in vaccinations recently.
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 30th. 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 recently begun reporting data on states (ME, UT) only sharing percent vaccinated rather than raw numbers. UT reported that as of May 20th, 58% of those incarcerated had received at least one dose and as of this week, 70% at one of the two state prisons had received at least one dose. This is why our visual shows a range. We have now begun reporting ME’s number as a percentage rather than a raw number, as the state recently changed its reporting. While ME was originally reporting a number vaccinated higher than their current incarcerated population total, the percentage reported now is 76%. We have removed ORs data due to a lack of recent updates and added back in NH’s data due to their recent updates. We have corrected an error in AK’s data and we now report that 66% of those incarcerated have received at lease one dose of the vaccine. The COVID Prison Project also analyzes media reports to track vaccination plans for states that are not reporting public vaccination counts.
We have recently updated our population denominator data using Vera’s 2021 data release. 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.