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COVID CONTROVERSY: Prisoners in line ahead of Nevada seniors for COVID-19 vaccinations

Nevada vaccine playbook under fire
Posted at 9:43 PM, Dec 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-30 10:33:37-05

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Many seniors are seeing red after learning Nevada authorities are placing people in prison at a higher priority compared to people 65 or older when it comes to access to the COVID-19 vaccines.

Thousands of Moderna and Pfizer vaccines have been given to the most at-risk Nevadans who are deemed to be in the "Tier One" population.


That includes first responders, healthcare workers, and staff and residents inside nursing homes.

The Tier One population has not been fully immunized with the vaccines yet, but next up would be Tier Two individuals which include essential retail workers, food processors, and Nevada Department of Corrections inmates, among other categories.

People with underlying health conditions and health seniors older than 65 are in the next to last group, Tier Three.

"I feel that if prison guards have the vaccine, they would be safe so why would the inmates have the vaccine before law-abiding citizens?" said Rosemary DeHart, who lives in Las Vegas but used to live in the United Kingdom.

DeHart feels the Nevada vaccine priorities need to be rearranged.

"In England, in the UK, the first people to get [the vaccine] are 80 years and older, so I have relatives that have already had their first jab," added DeHart.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, seniors are at the highest risk of death from COVID-19 infections.

Data shows people as young as 50 are showing an increased risk for death connected to the virus.

"If we don't want to see the deaths spiral with seniors, particularly at this time, they need to be right in one of the high priority groups," said Jeff Klein, CEO of Nevada Senior Services.

Nevada Senior Services provides a wide range of benefits for older people include advocacy on important issues related to aging.

Klein, 72, is calling on the state to move seniors up on the vaccine priority list.

"I think seniors need to be right at the top of the list, right after first responders," added Klein.

The CDC seems to agree, according to the latest vaccine guidelines available.

A presentation from the CDC on Dec. 20, indicates people 65 and older, regardless of health status, should be among the top tier for vaccine distribution.

"We have reached out through the state division on aging, to the governor's office, to the COVID-19 task force to make our case," explained Klein.

Inmate and justice reform advocates say the conditions inside prisons are ripe for coronavirus spread.

RELATED: Nevada Department of Corrections details updated COVID-19 prevention protocols

They say the risk for infection goes far beyond those behind bars and extends to prison workers and their families once they return home.

"Choosing to incarcerate is really a policy decision that actively facilitates higher rates of COVID-19 infections and ultimately deaths among an already volatile and marginalized population," said Jodi Hocking, founder of Return Strong: Families United for Justice for the Incarcerated.

13 Investigates reached out to the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services regarding the vaccine playbook, but a request for comment was not immediately returned.