Texas jail waited 7 months to offer COVID-19 vaccine

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — Melinda Lengthy says she’s dealt together with her son’s psychological sickness and drug habit for practically 15 years. She spent most of that point fearing drug use would kill him. Her solely reduction through the years was throughout his repeated stints in jail and rehab.

“We knew he wasn’t getting the meth and the medicine, and he wasn’t hurting anybody,” mentioned Lengthy.

Lengthy’s son, a father to a few boys, was booked into the Williamson County jail in November 2020. However this time, what Lengthy feared would kill her son was spreading contained in the partitions of the Williamson County jail.

“Worry that he’s not going to make it out,” mentioned Lengthy. “Worry for the opposite households.”

Because the begin of the pandemic, the Williamson County jail has reported outbreaks of COVID-19 among the many jail inhabitants – not not like different jails in Central Texas. One in all its outbreaks remains to be ongoing.

The outbreaks don’t simply affect the jail inhabitants. Since March 2020, greater than 9,000 individuals have been booked into the Williamson County jail. Simply as many have been launched in the identical period of time. Lots of these have been launched earlier than vaccines have been accessible within the Williamson County jail.

Regardless of earlier outbreaks, the jail administration in Williamson County waited practically seven months after the vaccine was first made accessible to the medically susceptible and people older than 65 in Texas to supply them to individuals housed within the jail.

Assistant Chief Deputy Kathleen Pokluda leads the corrections division for the Williamson County Sheriff’s Workplace. Pokluda mentioned the vaccines have been first provided to the jail inhabitants on July 26 of this 12 months — a time when vaccines had gone from being accessible to these with preexisting circumstances to accessible for these as younger as 12.

It additionally got here because the jail was experiencing a rising outbreak of COVID-19. On the finish of July, Pokluda reported 29 individuals housed on the jail with optimistic circumstances and 14 employees members who additionally examined optimistic. Over the course of the pandemic, six individuals had been hospitalized because of issues of COVID-19. (On the time of this report, Pokluda mentioned circumstances within the jail have been all the way down to 12.)

Pokluda mentioned the months-long delay in providing the vaccines was as a result of the jail administration solely needed to supply the Johnson & Johnson, which was tougher to get on the time than Pfizer and Moderna, she mentioned.

“We had it out of the jail from February till we noticed this uptick. We had no COVID, so it wasn’t a problem. It wasn’t a problem,” mentioned Pokluda. “We had talked about it, however we had determined we needed the J&J.”

Two months after the vaccine turned accessible to individuals 65 and older and people medically susceptible — on Feb. 19 — Travis County jail began providing its jail inhabitants the COVID-19 vaccine. In March, Hays County started providing the vaccine to its jail inhabitants. Bastrop County jail adopted go well with in April.

Some jails, like these in Blanco and Llano County, say they nonetheless don’t supply the vaccine to these housed of their jails. Each businesses report having no circumstances of COVID-19 within the jail all through everything of the pandemic.

In an e mail assertion, Llano County Sheriff Invoice Blackburn mentioned, “We’ve been lucky in that we have now not had a single case of COVID-19.”

The Texas Fee on Jail Requirements has been monitoring COVID-19 circumstances at county jails within the state all through the pandemic, together with information exhibiting the variety of confirmed and suspected deaths associated to COVID-19. However the fee says it stopped requiring businesses to report the info in June.

The final report from June 14 exhibits 88 individuals had an energetic optimistic COVID-19 take a look at at jails throughout Texas. Practically 4,000 individuals inside Texas jails have been being quarantined. The report confirmed 24 deaths because of COVID-19.

Jails in Central Texas additionally differ in how they display individuals coming into the jail. Whereas Travis County quarantines all newly booked individuals in single-occupancy cells for the primary 10-14 days, Williamson County jail’s coverage is to quarantine any particular person who each refuses a COVID-19 take a look at and is exhibiting signs.

“Now when the outbreak occurred – we weren’t doing temperatures, however now we’re again to doing temperatures daily. We do it twice a day – temperatures,” mentioned Pokluda. “Now we have caught those that means, as a result of which may be all that they’ve.”

Lengthy’s son was launched from the Williamson County jail in early August. He’s now in a rehabilitation facility, she mentioned. His mom says he was one of many greater than 60 individuals housed within the jail that selected to get a COVID-19 shot. It was provided to him for the primary time simply two weeks earlier than his nine-month sentence ended.

“They don’t need to die,” mentioned Lengthy. “That has been the factor I’ve prayed wouldn’t occur. I do know that I couldn’t have dealt with it. I do know his boys couldn’t have dealt with it. At the least they’ve that little little bit of hope that their father can get higher.”

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