As Westmoreland County Prison officials continue working to get a wave of coronavirus (COVID-19) cases at the Hempfield Township facility under control, the county’s prison board on Monday approved providing inmates with a monetary incentive to receive COVID-19 vaccinations.
Warden Bryan Kline said Monday there were 24 active coronavirus cases at the prison, including one new case diagnosed Monday morning.
The current outbreak started in March, and 65 inmates are considered recovered after contracting the virus in the most recent group of cases.
The prison battled a surge of coronavirus cases starting in November that affected more than 150 inmates and staff members, but appeared to have eliminated coronavirus cases in the facility by February before the current outbreak.
The prison board on Monday approved offering $25 in credit at the prison’s commissary to inmates who receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Kline said the incentive would be funded through the prison’s canteen fund, not taxpayer dollars.
Inmates would be credited with $12.50 upon receiving their first dose of vaccine, likely the Pfizer vaccine, Kline said, and the remaining $12.50 once they’ve received their second dose.
The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections offers a similar $25 commissary incentive to inmates at state correctional facilities for getting vaccinated against COVID-19.
Kline said details weren’t yet finalized regarding when the vaccine doses would begin being administered to inmates. Current and new inmates will be eligible to receive vaccinations, he said. Inmates who receive a first dose at the prison and are released before receiving a second dose will be contacted after release to set up an appointment to receive their second vaccine dose.