Some Geauga County inmates get COVID-19 vaccine ahead of elderly

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CHARDON, Ohio (WJW)– While many elderly are still waiting to get the COVID-19 vaccine, the FOX 8 I-Team learned some inmates at the Geauga County Jail have already received one.

Geauga County Sheriff Scott Hildenbrand confirmed that 15 inmates and 30 jail employees received the vaccine last week.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine created a vaccine rollout plan, saying that the goal is to make sure the most vulnerable populations are receiving their shots first.

When we asked the sheriff why the inmates got the vaccine before the elderly were even eligible to receive the shot, he said we should ask Geauga County Health Commissioner Tom Quade. The sheriff stressed he did not ask for the inmates to be vaccinated. He said the health department contacted his office, saying they were going to give the injections to the inmates that wanted one.

“I just assumed we are in line for it and that’s the way you do it,” the sheriff said. “To me, the most important thing was that our corrections officers got it because we got three people out right now and if we lose employees, it disrupts the entire county.”

The sheriff said only the inmates being held on state charges were asked if they wanted the vaccine.  A few did not want it. The inmates being housed in the jail on federal charges were not included.

 Quade said he believes the inmates were eligible for the vaccine.

 “It really wasn’t any big deal,” Quade said. “That first group of eligible people included all congregate settings and so as a public health guy, I consider a jail a congregate setting.”

But the Ohio Department of Health disagreed.

“It is important for our vaccine providers to follow the guidance and the Phase 1B plan that has been laid out by the Governor and ODH so that we have enough vaccine to make sure the most vulnerable populations are receiving their shots first,” Melanie Amato, press secretary for the ODH, said in a release sent to the FOX 8 I-Team.

“While vaccinating inmates and county jail staff are important for stopping the spread in a congregate setting, those that meet the current criteria of 80 plus and those in Phase 1A and 1B should be the only ones receiving the vaccine at this time. Prisons and county jails should have a proper process in place to vaccinate these individuals when their priority group is announced, but not before.”

The I-Team has shown that some elderly are having trouble getting the vaccine. The city of Cleveland received only 200 doses for more than 10,000 of its oldest senior citizens.

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