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Prison inmates, staff to receive H1N1 vaccinations

November 12, 2009

The Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services will administer a first round of H1N1 vaccinations to high-risk inmates and staff, according to department spokesman Mark Vernarelli.

The shots will be given by Correctional Medical Services staff based on predetermined priority groups consistent with the guidelines provided by the Centers for Disease Control, Vernarelli said.

High-priority individuals include those who are pregnant, those who are younger than 24 years old with underlying health conditions, and those between the ages of 25 and 64 who might have health complications that make them higher risk than others.

About 600 doses of the vaccine will be offered to staff members who are permanently assigned to infirmaries or to medical transportation units, Vernarelii said.

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The department must meet constitutional obligations to provide health care that meets "community standards of care" to inmates, and this includes administering seasonal and H1N1 flu vaccinations, Vernarelli said.

"This is not something we're going to be giving to 23,000 inmates," Vernarelli said.

The federal government provided the vaccinations at no cost, he said.

The department petitioned for correctional officers to be considered "first responders and emergency personnel" and, therefore, be given higher priority for vaccinations, but the status was declined based on Centers for Disease Control guidelines and the limited number of shots available, Vernarelli said.

-- Bridget DiCosmo

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