Oregon Department of Corrections begins vaccinating coronavirus on staff, some inmates

The Oregon Department of Corrections said Monday it had received enough doses of the Moderna Therapeutics coronavirus vaccine to treat 400 workers and inmates.

The agency said nurses, doctors and correctional officers who are in close contact with infected prisoners are the highest priority for the vaccines. The state said a small number of inmates whose assignments include cleaning units that house infected inmates are also in the high priority group.

Dr. Warren Roberts, the agency’s chief medical officer, was one of the first employees of the Department of Corrections to receive the vaccine Monday. In a statement issued by the agency, Roberts urged all employees of the prison system and inmates to be vaccinated as soon as the shots were available.

“I saw the epidemic out of prison and know we have to fight back with all available tools,” Roberts said. “Some of the worst outbreaks in Oregon have been in institutional settings and this virus does not stay behind the walls of the prison, but seeps into the surrounding community.”

The pandemic has dragged through prison systems here and nationally. In Oregon, 2,079 prisoners tested positive for the virus and 20 died. Another 536 employees also tested positive.

– Noelle Crombie; [email protected]; 503-276-7184; @noellecrombie