Prisoners are heading to the front of the line under Gov. Charlie Baker’s vaccination plan, a politically risky move that could be unpopular with the public.
Health experts with the administration say the move is necessary because prisons and jails are hotbeds of coronavirus and protecting the inmates prevents them from spreading the virus inside and outside the system.
But a governor of at least one other state has put their foot down, saying the state won’t allow inmates to get preferential treatment with the vaccine.
“That won’t happen,” Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, a Democrat, said a week ago, defending the state’s vaccination plan. “There’s no way that prisoners are going to get it before members of a vulnerable population. …There’s no way it’s going to go to prisoners before it goes to people who haven’t committed any crime. That’s obvious.”
Not so obvious to Baker, however.
The governor’s plan released on Wednesday puts prison and jail inmates and homeless people among the first to be given doses of the coronavirus vaccine as soon as it becomes approved by the FDA.
The three-phased plan put out by Baker gives first priority to vulnerable groups living in congregate shelters and settings, which includes prisoners. The first doses will also be given to health care workers directly involved in COVID-19, workers and residents in long-term care facilities, police, fire and other emergency personnel.
So under Baker’s plan, child molesters, rapists and murderers will be getting the vaccine before the general public or even people who are 65 and older.
How’s that sound to most people?
That’s not to say we should just let inmates die or contract the virus and become superspreaders.
But putting them first in line is a tough pill to swallow for others who are anxious to get in line for the vaccine, including those with pre-existing conditions.
Adults over 65 and those with multiple co-morbidities or underlying health conditions, as well as educators, grocery store workers, public works and health workers will come under Phase 2 of Baker’s plan. The rest of the general public will come under Phase 3 of the vaccine plan, but that won’t go into effect until April 2021 at the earliest.
Baker has largely escaped tough criticism throughout the coronavirus pandemic crisis, even though Massachusetts has one of the highest infection rates in the nation.
But that’s starting to change. Democrats have begun to take aim at Baker for what they say is his too-slow response to the pandemic.
Under pressure from health experts, Baker just this week was forced to roll back the business reopening phases but that wasn’t enough for some critics.
“The pressure finally became too much for Baker to ignore, forcing him to finally take the extremely modest steps he outlined,” the Mass Democrats said in a statement. “No matter the issue, Baker only acts when pressured. It’s not leadership, it’s negligence.”
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