About 40% of state's corrections department staff, 30% of inmates declining COVID vaccinations
About 40% of Kansas Department of Corrections staff and about 30% of inmates have declined offers they received to be vaccinated for COVID-19.
KDOC this week began posting on its website figures regarding the number of residents vaccinated at its facilities, and it plans to begin posting similar information regarding its staff soon, hopefully by March 24, KDOC public information officer Carol Pitts told The Topeka Capital-Journal in an email Thursday.
KDOC is in its sixth week of offering vaccinations to residents and staff, Pitts added.
"Close to 60% of staff who have been offered the vaccine to date have accepted, and close to 70% of residents offered the vaccine have accepted," she wrote.
KDOC plans to continue operating its current vaccination clinics through mid-April, according to Pitts.
The agency's decision to share COVID-19 vaccination figures stands in contrast to Secretary of Corrections Jeff Zmuda's refusal last month of The Capital-Journal's request that he reveal the agency's percentage of employees who declined the vaccine.
"This is a personal choice made by each employee and is not information we can share," Pitts told the newspaper in an email for an article published Feb. 5.
When asked Thursday why KDOC chose this month to make the figures public, Pitts replied in an email: "The choice to accept the vaccine is a personal healthcare decision every individual must make, ideally without additional pressure from external sources. All staff have now had an opportunity to make their decision, and we are now sharing the data."
Neither KDOC nor the Shawnee County Department of Corrections requires employees or inmates to explain their reasons for declining the vaccine.
Roughly 34% of the county corrections department's employees have accepted the vaccine offer, Maj. Tim Phelps, spokesman for that department, said Thursday.
That was up from the 30% figure Phelps shared with The Capital-Journal early last month, when he suggested some people lacked confidence in the vaccine.
"We know that with the flood of information and opinions about the value of the vaccine it is easy for employees to feel uncertain about the subject," he said.
Phelps added last month that some of the county corrections department's staff members have part-time jobs, such as working security at Topeka hospitals, that enable them to get vaccinated outside the corrections department.
The Iowa Department of Corrections reported in late January that 48% of its staff had declined the vaccination, according to the Des Moines Register.
That newspaper quoted Jerome Greenfield, the top health care administrator for the Iowa Department of Corrections, as suggesting a proliferation of misinformation about the vaccine might be part of the reason the total was so low.