Colorado’s governor says prisoners won’t be prioritized for a coronavirus vaccine. A state plan outlines otherwise. |

Colorado’s governor says prisoners won’t be prioritized for a coronavirus vaccine. A state plan outlines otherwise.

Gov. Jared Polis’ comments Tuesday run counter to the ethical framework in a plan drafted by his administration. Colorado officials say the plan will be revised next week.

Jesse Paul / Colorado Sun
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis holds up a U.S. Census mask as he speaks to reporters at the governor's mansion in downtown Denver on Thursday, June 11, 2020.
Jesse Paul / Colorado Sun

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Gov. Jared Polis forcefully denied criticism that Colorado’s plan for prioritizing allocation of coronavirus vaccines will place incarcerated individuals ahead of healthy older Coloradans.

“That won’t happen,” Polis said. “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. So those are just false.”

But the draft plan for prioritizing vaccine allocation that the state sent to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in October specifically places people in prisons and jails in a higher priority tier than healthy adults who are age 65 or older.

The draft plan includes inmates with other people who live in congregate housing situations, such as college students living in dorm rooms or seasonal workers at ski areas. People living in those situations are considered to be vulnerable not because they may suffer severe complications from a coronavirus infection but because they are less able to socially distance. That puts them at greater risk of a disease outbreak that could spread into the broader community.

And Polis’ comments also contradict the ethical framework of the Colorado plan, which states that no one will be discriminated against when it comes to vaccine allocation based on their criminal history.

Spokespeople for both Polis and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment later clarified that the state intends to release a revised version of the allocation plan next week. The governor’s office says the ethical framework for the plan will not be changed.

To read the rest of the Colorado Sun article, click here.

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