Tama County sheriff: No COVID-19 vaccines yet for prisoners

TOLEDO, Iowa (AP) — An east-central Iowa county sheriff confirmed Thursday that county jail inmates have not been given COVID-19 vaccines, saying only one inmate has asked for it.

Tama County Sheriff Dennis Kucera’s responded after television station KCRG first reported Wednesday that the jail is not offering inmates access to the vaccine. Kucera acknowledged that Thursday, but said the only inmate to request the vaccine has been in the jail since May 2020 and has only requested the vaccine in the last two months.

Kucera said the jail has no onsite medical staff that could give the vaccine, meaning prisoners would have to be taken out of the jail to get one, “which is not in the best interest of the inmate’s health and security.”

The jail’s inmates — there are currently 17 — have little risk of exposure, because each prisoner is quarantined for 14 days before being placed into the general population, the sheriff said. Kucera also noted that no Tama County Jail inmate or staff member has contracted the virus since the pandemic began.

Iowa prisons have been hot spots for the virus. Nearly 4,800 inmates in Iowa’s prisons have tested positive for COVID-19 since the pandemic started. But Kucera said it’s unfair to compare the 20-bed Tama County Jail to prisons holding hundreds of inmates.