Only about one-fourth of McLean County jail inmates took the COVID-19 vaccine when the county hosted a clinic at the jail last week.
McLean County Sheriff Jon Sandage said he's not sure why hesitancy appears to be much higher than in the general population, but he said it seems consistent with other jails in Illinois.
“We think there will possibly be more once they see that there (are) no side effects or mild side effects from the shot, and if that’s the case we will schedule another clinic,” Sandage said.
Inmates received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Jail inmates are among one of the few populations in McLean County to receive the one-dose vaccine, so far. The McLean County Health Department (MCHD) said it has a limited supply of that vaccine.
Sandage said that it's easier to distribute the one-dose vaccine since the inmate population is frequently changing.
“When you have a population that is in and out and hard to track, the one shot definitely benefited us,” he said.
Illinois National Guard members assisted with the vaccine distribution as it has done with the county-run clinics at Grossinger Motors Arena and other locations, including Illinois State University.
Sandage said 64 inmates out of the 235 who were under confinement signed up for the vaccine. That’s 27% of the jail population. He said the sheriff’s office provided information to inmates about the health benefits of getting the vaccine, but said he did not try to incentivize getting the vaccine by suggesting it could lead to restrictions being lifted sooner.
“We really can’t make that promise because we would get a lot of people vaccinated and still have some cases,” said Sandage, adding the jail has partially eased lockdown restrictions, allowing a limited number of inmates in the day room at a given time.
The sheriff indicated less than 15% of jail staff got the vaccine at the clinic. Sandage said he doesn't know how many may have gotten the vaccine elsewhere.
Fewer than a dozen inmates and fewer than a dozen staff members have tested positive for the coronavirus over the last year, he said; several staff members required hospitalization.
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