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Nearly half of Wisconsin prisoners have gotten at least 1 COVID-19 vaccine dose
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VACCINE ROLLOUT | STATE PRISONS

Nearly half of Wisconsin prisoners have gotten at least 1 COVID-19 vaccine dose

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Waupun prison

Waupun Correctional Institution has had five COVID-19-related deaths among inmates. 

Nearly half of the Wisconsin state prison population has gotten at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, the Wisconsin Department of Corrections reported Tuesday.

A total of 9,536 of the state’s roughly 19,400 prisoners have been either fully or partially vaccinated, according to DOC’s COVID-19 data dashboard, which is updated every Tuesday.

About 3,100 of those incarcerated individuals were vaccinated within the last week. As of last week Tuesday, only 6,437 inmates had gotten a dose.

Wisconsin prisoners have been eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine since March 1, but vaccinations were slow going throughout the month of March.

DOC did not start releasing data on how many inmates were getting vaccinated until April. The department first reported that just 1,382 prisoners had been vaccinated as of April 5.

Since then, DOC has vaccinated a few thousand inmates each week, except for from April 13 to April 20, when just 595 additional vaccinations were reported.

DOC spokesperson John Beard did not respond to a question about whether there was a reason for the drop that week. He said he did not know if the temporary pause of the Johnson & Johnson shot had an impact.

Also Tuesday, DOC started providing a breakdown of the doses by type for the first time.

Of the 9,536 inmates who got at least one dose, 1,787 of them received the Johnson & Johnson shot while 7,749 got either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, DOC said. Of those with Pfizer or Moderna, 1,377 have now gotten their second shot, according to DOC.

So far, 10,960 inmates have been infected with COVID-19, but only 11 of those cases were active as of Tuesday, DOC said.

A total of 31 incarcerated people have died from COVID-19.

Fave 5: Emily Hamer picks her most impactful stories of 2020

Wisconsin State Journal reporter Emily Hamer's coverage of the protests in Madison this summer and of the criminal justice system is the work she thinks made the largest impact this year. 

As many focused on the nighttime destruction that sometimes followed local protests against racism and brutality this summer, some people missed the passion and meaning behind the movement. One of Hamer's favorite stories was one that focused on how Madison's youth were a driving force of the nighttime protests that formed organically. They called their movement "a revolution." An honorable mention: 'Celebration of life': Madison protesters honor Breonna Taylor with birthday party

Another impactful story revealed prosecutors can use small mistakes that aren't themselves crimes — such as drinking one beer, walking into a liquor store or forgetting a court date — to pressure defendants into pleading guilty. 

And before COVID-19 cases exploded in the prison system, a story in May showed that Wisconsin's largest prison was unprepared for the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic. Guards and inmates saw many ways the virus could breach the walls of their facility and spread unabated. Now, more than seven months later, the prison has had the largest COVID-19 outbreak of any state prison, with more than 950 total cases among inmates. 

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