First Michigan Corrections employee receives COVID-19 vaccine

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LANSING, Mich. (WLNS)– Thursday the Michigan Department of Corrections announced the first employee for the department, had received a vaccine for COVID-19.

Cindi Jenkins, who has worked for the department for 30 years, received the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine at War Memorial Hospital in Sault Ste. Marie at 7:45 a.m.

“I’m a nurse. I believe in science. I believe vaccines save lives,” Jenkins said. “I have full faith in the medical community and science and research.”

inross Correctional Facility had the first recorded prisoner case in the department in mid-March, and then went most of the year without any cases until November when an outbreak occurred and about 80 percent of the prisoner population tested positive. There were also 119 employees who tested positive, included half of her healthcare team. Two of those employees are still off work.

“It’s been a rough nine months. We are all tired,” she said. “It feels like it has encompassed your life. It’s all we talk about.”

For Jenkins, she said her decision to take the vaccine, was not just about herself, but about keeping her coworkers, the prisoners and her family safe as well. She said she seen older, sicker individuals pass away from the virus, but also otherwise relatively healthy people.

“You don’t know if you’re going to be that person that this virus takes down. I’ve watched the repercussions. I’ve never seen anything like this,” she said. “If I can do anything to decrease the time, the work, the death and destruction this virus has done, I’m all in.”

Jenkins said more than a dozen of her healthcare staff at the facility have also signed up for the vaccine and she regularly counsels other employees who ask her for her opinion on whether to take the vaccine. Healthcare employees at Chippewa and Carson City Correctional also received the vaccine today and more facilities are expected to begin soon as their county health departments receive their allotment of the vaccine.

Per the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services vaccine phase plan, healthcare staff who provide direct care, including QMHPs and behavioral health, are the first MDOC employees eligible to receive the vaccine as they fall under priority 1A3b. All other facility employees will fall under priority 1B. Prisoners fall under Phase 2 of the MDHHS plan.

“This is a great and historic day for our department,” MDOC Director Heidi Washington said. “I look forward to seeing the vaccine be made available widely to our staff and prisoners in the New Year. Today’s first vaccinations are a step toward the end of this pandemic which has taken such a toll on so many.”

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