Fresno County jail vaccination campaign making strides for entire community

Fresno County jail vaccination campaign making strides for entire community

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) — A vaccination operation at the Fresno County jail is making major strides toward stopping the spread of COVID-19. Almost as soon as the gates close behind a new Fresno County jail inmate, COVID comes up. The booking process now includes COVID testing and when tests come back negative, medical staff members from Wellpath offer a vaccination.

“I think it’s important with the congregant setting that we have in the jail that we offer this because of how contagious the disease is and how close the inmates have to be while they’re in custody,” said Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims. Wellpath started giving shots to willing inmates in late February, starting with inmates older than 65 and those with health issues.

Almost all of them took it at first. Now, they’ve expanded the offer beyond booking. “We have weekly clinics in the jail where if inmates do choose to get the vaccine, it’s available to them,” Sheriff Mims said. We talked to a few recently released inmates Tuesday who confirmed the vaccine offers, but not all of them accepted it. Now that it’s available to everyone, about 57% of unvaccinated inmates are turning it down. Sheriff Mims says they’re using both Pfizer and Johnson& Johnson, but they prefer J&J because it’s one-and-done.

She says it seems to be making a big difference on their day-to-day operations. They now have just three inmates with active COVID cases and about 100 people in quarantine, about one-eighth the numbers from before vaccinations. That matters outside of the jail as well.

“People come in,” Sheriff Mims said. “They go out. Every single days about as many go out as come in. That’s the nature of a local jail. And so that means they’re coming out into our communities.” Sheriff Mims says they’ll probably keep up the vaccination operation as long as COVID remains an issue in Fresno County.

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