Vaccination of elderly inmates begins at Utah State Prison

Nearly all of the Utah State Prison (USP) in Draper incarcerated individuals 70 years or older will receive the COVID-19 vaccine, according to Utah Department of Corrections officials.

Last week the clinical services team personally screened and offered the vaccine to every incarcerated individuals 70 years and older at USP, with 79 individuals agreed to receive the vaccine.

The initial rollout of the vaccine began Jan. 25. 2021. The most high-risk and medically compromised individuals are housed there due to proximity to USP’s infirmary and local hospitals.

Nghia Cano’s last birthday qualified her for the vaccine. She said it was not a difficult choice to make.

“I think the (danger) with COVID is worse than any problems with the vaccine,” she said moments before receiving her first dose.

Octogenarian Mary Hansen echoed Cano’s sentiments.

“That COVID is going around and I don’t want to get it,” she said, adding, “I’m in the class that ought to get it.”

Medical staff at the Draper facility said inmates are well aware of the impact the virus has had on older Americans and those with underlying medical conditions. Both the Utah State Prison and the Central Utah Correctional Center have experienced outbreaks recently.

“Oh, yeah, it’s very relevant,” said Craig Jensen, a registered nurse who is the infectious disease coordinator for the Clinical Services Bureau, the UDC’s medical arm. “It’s a concern to them. They ask questions all the time. They know they are high risk.”

Even a few who declined the vaccine are keeping their options open, said Rodger MacFarlane, a RN with the department.

“One told me he was not going to get it yet, but hadn’t made up his mind,” recalled MacFarlane.

That was not the case for Alavina Floirreich, who quietly waited her turn in the Timpanogos Womens Facility. She was determined to get the vaccine – and her reasoning was simple.

“Because I do not want to be sick,” she said.

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