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Prison vaccinations begin

John Richmeier
The Leavenworth Times

The Kansas Department of Corrections started administering COVID-19 vaccines to inmates at the Lansing Correctional Facility and other state prisons this week, according to a department spokeswoman.

As part of Phase 2 of the state’s vaccination distribution plan, people in congregate settings are eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccines. Congregate settings include correctional facilities.

Carol Pitts, public information officer for KDOC, said in an email that medical staff and some other employees at state prisons were eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccines during Phase 1 of the plan. The department began administering vaccine doses to other staff members and inmates this week throughout KDOC facilities as part of Phase 2.

As of Friday, the Lansing Correctional Facility housed 1,800 inmates, according to information posted on the KDOC website.

Some have criticized the decision to vaccinate prison inmates ahead of others in the state.

Last week, members of the Kansas Senate passed a non-binding resolution that argues there is a need “to administer the COVID-19 vaccine to law-abiding Kansans before administering the vaccine to healthy incarcerated individuals.”

The resolution urged Gov. Laura Kelly to revise her administration’s vaccine distribution plan “by removing prisoners from the front of the line in Phase 2 and instead prioritizing the vaccination of the elderly, the teachers and those aged 16 to 64 who have severe medical risks.”

The resolution passed 28-8 in the Kansas Senate.

The two state senators who represent Leavenworth County were split on the resolution. Sen. Jeff Pittman, a Democrat who represents the cities of Leavenworth and Lansing, voted for the resolution. Sen. Tom Holland, a Democrat who represents other areas of the county, voted against the resolution, according to Kansas Legislature website.

Stephanie Sloop, a spokeswoman for the county, said in an email that Leavenworth County Health Department officials are working with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment to determine how the vaccine will be administered at the privately-operated CoreCivic Leavenworth Detention Center.

Twitter: @LVTNewsJohnR