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Media Advisory: ACLU of Utah Statement on COVID-19 in Utah Jails

20 May 2021 Published in Legal Advocacy

May 20, 2021 | As we stated in our open letter on April 27, 2021, there have been significant discrepancies in COVID-19 vaccine access for individuals incarcerated in Utah county jails. The ACLU of Utah has contacted every local health department in the state and many of the county jails regarding COVID-19 vaccine access. While some counties, such as Davis and San Juan, were able to administer vaccines to the majority of the individuals in their custody at an early stage, there have been serious outliers. Currently, the Weber-Morgan Health Department has not provided the Weber County Jail with any vaccines. The Weber County Jail was supposed to receive vaccines from the health department in April 2021. Weber County Jail officials have taken steps to secure vaccines for some of the jail’s population from other medical providers, and we commend their efforts.
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However, the Weber-Morgan Health Department has not responded to our requests for information on how the health department will be ensuring that the approximately 640 individuals incarcerated in the Weber County Jail will have access to COVID-19 vaccination. As the ACLU of Utah reminded the Weber-Morgan Health Department last month, the state health department identified incarcerated individuals as a priority group for vaccination, and the Weber County Jail has already experienced a major COVID-19 outbreak. Incarcerated individuals are completely unable to get vaccinated on their own.

We are urging the Weber-Morgan Health Department to provide the Weber County Jail with more support in the jail’s efforts to provide ongoing vaccine access for every incarcerated individual in the jail. Failing to provide timely ongoing vaccine access for this vulnerable population compromises not just the health and safety of incarcerated people, it can also create a public health risk for surrounding communities.

Incarcerated people must not face vastly different health outcomes and risks based on the county where they are incarcerated. Robust vaccination efforts require cooperation from various officials and entities, but county and local health departments are the first resource.

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