Wisconsin prison COVID vaccinations near 50%

COVID-19 vaccine

Nearly half of the people in custody in Wisconsin prisons and youth facilities are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

The rate of vaccinations in prisons exceeds the vaccination rate for Wisconsin as a whole, after initially lagging behind. Data from the Wisconsin Department of Corrections shows that as of Tuesday, 8,972 people, or 47.2% of the eligible prison population, have been fully vaccinated. That’s compared with 41.7% of eligible state residents overall, Wisconsin Public Radio reported.

A total of 63.2% of the prison population, or 12,014 people, have received at least a single dose of the vaccine series.

That's a huge jump from early April, when only 7% of the prison population had received a single vaccine dose. Some say the initial lag was due to political pressure from some state Republicans, who feared inmates would get prioritized ahead of senior citizens.

Despite the increase, corrections department data show roughly 27% of those currently incarcerated are opting against inoculation.

"Vaccine hesitancy is not unique to DOC and persons in our care," corrections department spokesperson John Beard said in an email to Wisconsin Public Radio. He said the agency will continue to encourage staff and those in custody to get vaccinated.

Beard said new COVID-19 cases have been declining in the state’s prisons. As of Tuesday, there were four active cases across 37 institutions. More than half of the state’s prisoners — 10,976 people — have gotten COVID-19 since the pandemic began.

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