FRANKLIN, Ind. (WISH) — Johnson County jail officials are trying to figure out what to do next after 282 inmates refused the COVID-19 vaccine Monday morning.
Only 58 inmates of 340 said “yes” when the medical team made their rounds. This was a shock to Sheriff Duane Burgess, who had set aside hundreds of doses and two days for vaccinations to assure anyone who wanted the coronavirus vaccine could get it.
The jail is on lockdown after eight positive cases over the weekend.
The medical staff at the Johnson County jail made its rounds Monday morning to get a head count of how many inmates wanted to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. They expected at least few hundred to opt in.
“I was sad to see that just only 58 inmates this morning took that shot,” Burgess said Monday.
So, 282 inmates said “no.”
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“This morning during ‘med pass,’ many inmates were like, ‘We are not doing it. We are just not going to do it. We are not going to be guinea pigs,’ and I get it. That is their right and we just had to deal with it,'” Burgess said.
The sheriff believes many said “no” not because they didn’t want to be vaccinated but because the vaccinations are one of a few things inmates can refuse.
“The older inmates, they were quick to accept it and take it,” Burgess said.
The large facility had 400 vials on hand for inmates and the staff to make sure they were covered. “We had set aside two days to do them to be prepared,” the sheriff said.
Burgess says he was very particular with what shot was available to inmates in the case that someone got out or was transferred after their first dose. “We wanted the Johnson & Johnson (vaccine) because it is a one shot. You get one shot and you are good. It is not a two shot process.”
For now, the 58 inmates who got vaccinated will have to follow the same rules as those who did not get vaccinated at least for the next 14 to 30 days.
“I will sit down with our health department, our medical authority in the jail, and see where they are at and have them help me guide that ship and where we need to be to make sure that we can be safe,” Burgess said.
The vaccination rate and infection rate affects programming at the jail. As of now, outside programs are not happening at the jail and inmates have to attend court hearings virtually.
As of Monday afternoon, the sheriff says, no inmates have reported any serious symptoms after receiving the vaccine. The jail will keep vaccine on hand in case inmates change their minds and want to get the shot.