The Middlesex Sheriff’s Office (MSO) on Jan. 21 began vaccinating staff and incarcerated individuals in accordance with the timeline established by the Baker-Polito Administration and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH).
Those living and working in congregate settings (including jails and shelters) have been identified as the fourth priority group within Phase One of the Commonwealth’s COVID-19 vaccination plan.
By the end of Jan. 21, approximately 130 total staff members and incarcerated individuals will have received the first dose of the Moderna vaccine. Vaccinations will resume on Friday morning.
“Today marks a critical milestone in our ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic, but it is important to note it is neither our first nor our last step,” said Middlesex Sheriff Peter J. Koutoujian. “Over the past 11 months we have taken a medically-driven approach to our response, implementing a series of measures designed to mitigate the impact of COVID including mask mandates and quarantining newly committed individuals. As a result of these steps, we are now approaching four consecutive months – almost 180 tests – without a positive case in the incarcerated population.”
Over the coming days and weeks, the MSO will continue to administer first and second doses to any individuals who voluntarily choose to receive them. Individuals released from custody prior to receiving their second dose will be given a CDC COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card that identifies the date of their initial dose, which vaccine they were given and the date they are slated for their next dose.
Results of a recently completed baseline survey showed that 40 percent of incarcerated individuals who responded said they would want to receive the vaccine if it was available to them, while one-third of those respondents who initially said they would not agree to be vaccinated, indicated they were open to changing their minds.
Utilizing information gathered from the survey including age, race and reasons for not wanting the vaccine, the MSO will continue to engage individuals in an effort to further educate those who initially decline the vaccine.
The survey showed that nearly 31 percent of those who said they were not interested in the vaccine were most concerned with safety and effectiveness, while approximately 7.5 percent said they were most concerned about a rushed timeline.
As part of efforts to educate individuals and answer questions about the vaccine, Middlesex Sheriff Peter J. Koutoujian and Doctors Alysse Wurcel (Tufts Medical Center) and Kathryn Stephenson (Harvard University), met with two groups of incarcerated individuals earlier this week. The ongoing education effort will also include FAQ sheets and videos, among other measures.
In addition to those steps, Sheriff Koutoujian and several members of the MSO command staff received an initial dose today in an effort to demonstrate their confidence in the vaccine to those being held in custody at the Middlesex Jail & House of Correction.
Thursday’s vaccinations are in addition to the 103 members of the MSO – frontline healthcare workers and others deemed eligible per DPH guidelines – who had received their initial doses earlier this month.