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Florida begins coronavirus vaccinations for state prisoners

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AURORA, CO - DECEMBER 15: (EDITORIAL USE ONLY) Rocky Mountain Regional VA Medical Center investigational pharmacy technician Sara Berech is reflected in the glass of a fume hood as she prepares a dose of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine for a clinical trial on December 15, 2020 in Aurora, Colorado. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine could be submitted for emergency use by late January and is the only vaccine among leading candidates given as a single dose. (Photo by Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images)

Florida is starting to provide coronavirus vaccines to state prisoners.

The Department of Health and Division of Emergency Management expect to offer enough doses within two weeks for every staff member and inmate who wants a shot.

The pandemic has hit Florida prisons hard. They've had nearly 18,000 positive tests among inmates - which would amount to about 22 percent of the current prison population. And 213 inmates have died.

But getting prisoners vaccinated has not been a priority. 

Finally, as vaccinations have opened up for all adults in Florida, the state is starting to immunize its prisoners.

Florida Department of Corrections officials say medical workers have visited each dormitory to educate inmates about the vaccine.

About 33,000 inmates -- or 41 percent -- have indicated they want it. 

So the Department of Health has allocated 33,000 doses for state-run prisons.

Seven prisons operated by private companies are also receiving vaccines. Three of those have already scheduled vaccinations for inmates and staff.

Joe Byrnes came to Central Florida Public Media from the Ocala Star-Banner and The Gainesville Sun, where he worked as a reporter and editor for several years. Joe graduated from Loyola University in New Orleans and turned to journalism after teaching. He enjoys freshwater fishing and family gatherings.