Geauga County residents react to health commissioner’s decision to vaccinate inmates

Geauga County residents react to health commissioner’s decision to vaccinate inmates

CHARDON, Ohio (WOIO) - Some people in our area are upset about how the vaccine is being given out and to whom.

Many are wondering why some getting it before others, including some at the Geauga County Correctional Facility.

In a press release dated January 22, 2021, Geauga County Health Commissioner, Tom Quade was asked why he made the decision to hold a vaccination clinic at the Geauga County Correctional facility for correction officers and inmates before one was held for residents 80 years and older. He writes:

“A combination of 38 correction officers, the Sheriff, and inmates were vaccinated on January 13 as members of the group Quade understood to be eligible as a congregate setting. Prior to conducting that clinic, Geauga Public Health had been conducting clinics for other congregate settings, including people served by Ravenwood Health, Geauga County Board of Developmental Disabilities, an assisted living facility that did not register to be part of the pharmacy program, the women’s shelter as well as EMS providers spread over multiple firehouses. Those clinics collectively served to vaccinate more than 350 people.

It was not until six days after the Geauga County Corrections clinic that the 80+-year-old residents of the county became eligible to receive the vaccine. Had the vaccine not been used for the correctional facility, it still would not have been available to the older residents as they were not yet eligible. Geauga Public Health scheduled three clinics within four days of their eligibility which will collectively vaccinate another 600 residents, many of whom are 80+.

Quade considered Geauga County Corrections to be a congregate setting for several reasons. At the time it was planned, jails were not excluded in the written guidance from the state. The description of congregate settings included psychiatric hospitals and rehab residential treatment centers. According to Quade, psychiatric hospital patient populations, those in residential drug rehabilitation, and incarcerated populations have much in common with regard to overall physical health and age distribution of the residents. What puts them at risk is their close living quarters.

Quade states, “There is no evidence-based public health science-supported justification to provide vaccine to those who reside in a psychiatric hospital or drug rehab residence but deny it to those who are incarcerated. In fact, we only need to look back to April of 2020 at the state’s largest outbreak in a prison setting to see the stark evidence supporting their inclusion in a vaccination campaign.” He added, “If I had the benefit of hindsight I would have done it sooner and maybe we could have prevented the current outbreak involving a dozen or so correction officers and inmates at Geauga County Corrections.”

Quade says he understands the public’s general frustration and likens it to how a lifeguard can be drowned by the very person they are trying to save. “The public is desperate to get vaccinated and I am committed to make that happen as quickly as possible. It would be easier to do that without all the personal attacks but that venting will not deter me or my team from the task at hand.”

There’s a mixed reaction from some in the community.

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