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Health

Cumberland County Sheriff: Vaccine Efforts For Jailed Mainers 'Not Good Enough'

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cumberlandso.org
The Cumberland County Jail in Portland.

Vaccinations for residents of state and local correctional facilities in Maine have lagged well behind the general public despite pressure from advocacy groups and lawmakers.

Cumberland County Sheriff Kevin Joyce says it has been difficult to understand as he struggles to keep COVID-19 out of his facility and watches vaccine appointments go unfilled in some places. He says medical personnel at his jail are ready to step in and inoculate people who are vulnerable to infection because of their inability to socially distance.

"I think our jail is a vaccination site, and an integral part of public health, because if we can vaccinate some of these folks that are homeless and living on the street and get them vaccinated with the Johnson & Johnson one and done, that helps the community out because that's one less person we've got to worry about," he says.

Joyce says his jail did receive a small number of doses on Wednesday.

"We had 11 doses that were sent which is a start but it's not good enough. We have about 75 people that meet the 50 years or older category," he says.

Joyce says he's anxious to vaccinate as many people as possible so that in-person visits — which have been prohibited for more than a year — can resume. Currently, Mainers age 50 and up are eligible to receive a jab.

A spokesperson for the Maine Department of Corrections says state correctional facilities will begin vaccinating residents in that age group next week. Jails are also expected to follow suit, although it's unclear how much vaccine they'll receive.