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Local 5 - weareiowa.com | Des Moines Local News & Weather | Des Moines, Iowa

Iowa prison staff begin to vaccinate inmates

More than 7,300 inmates statewide remain unvaccinated.

DES MOINES, Iowa — EDITOR'S NOTE: The above video is from Nov. 30, 2020

COVID-19 vaccine eligibility expanded this week to every Iowan over the age of 16. But a portion of the population remains unvaccinated. 

On Friday, that began to change.

Cord Overton with the Iowa Department of Corrections told Local 5 that prison inmates have begun receiving the vaccine.

He said it is currently underway, but going slowly.

The DOC has to rely on local county health departments in the areas where correctional facilities are located to coordinate vaccinations inside prisons. 

"Each facility is in communication with their local county public health department to obtain vaccines for the incarcerated population as they become available," Overton said. "Our partners in the local public health departments have been extremely helpful in this regard."

The vaccines are not mandatory for inmates, and shots will be administered by medical personnel on-site or by county public health employees inside each prison. 

Inmates will be notified when the vaccines will arrive. 

More than 7,300 of the state's 7,627 inmates have not been vaccinated as of Friday evening.

Because of the limited number of doses given by local county health departments, priority will be given to inmates that are older or have underlying health conditions, according to Overton.

Coronavirus has swept through several of Iowa's correctional facilities, killing 19 inmates and two staff members.

Watch: Verifying information surrounding COVID-19 vaccine passports