Virus vaccinations begin at Stockton prison medical site

The California Health Care Facility, a prison hospital in south Stockton, Calif., houses about 2,600 inmates, on May 2, 2019. A patient at the prison died from Legionnaires' disease in 2018, and the inmates at the facility and two nearby youth correc

Vaccinations against COVID-19 have begun at a Stockton prison facility for inmates with special medical needs, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Sixty-five inmates and employees of California Health Care Facility, Stockton, volunteered to receive the vaccine Tuesday, said Steve Crouch, director of public employees for the International Union of Operating Engineers, which represents maintenance and systems employees.

The employees who received vaccinations are in high-risk positions dealing with potentially infected inmates, Crouch told the Times.

At least 150 of the facility’s 2,400 inmates are positive for COVID-19, the Times said.

Vaccination of employees and high-risk inmates is also expected to get underway at the Central California Women’s Facility in Chowchilla and the California Medical Facility, Vacaville, according to California Correctional Health Care Services.

"Supply of the vaccine is limited and will be distributed according to state and federal guidelines," the agency said in a statement. "Our first focus will be people at high risk of becoming infected or severely ill from COVID-19."

California state prisons have more than 90,000 inmates and as of this week more than 10,000 had active cases of COVID-19, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation website.

Active cases among staff totaled more than 3,400. Cumulatively, there have been 10,531 staff cases and 7,120 have returned to work.

Deaths of 113 inmates and 11 staff members appear to be due to complications of COVID-19, according to the department.

Outside of prisons, vaccinations against the coronavirus are underway for medical workers as California is in the midst of a stunning surge of coronavirus cases that authorities say stems from Thanksgiving gatherings.

Thousands of newly confirmed cases are being reported daily and officials warn that the health system could soon be overwhelmed.