SAEGERTOWN — Inmates at the Crawford County Correctional Facility have begun receiving COVID-19 vaccinations on a voluntary basis.

An initial group of 30 inmates received their first dose of the two-dose Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine Tuesday, Warden Jack Greenfield said Thursday. Another 20 inmates signed up for inoculations Wednesday and are awaiting their first shot.

In January, the county jail in Saegertown had two waves of coronavirus outbreaks among inmates and staff. There were 50 inmates who ended up contracting the virus as well as eight staff members, but there were no hospitalizations or fatalities due to those outbreaks.

Meadville Medical Center provided vaccine and staffing for Tuesday's inmate vaccinations, Greenfield said. The hospital will provide the first round of vaccine to the other 20 inmates when it becomes available.

"It's strictly voluntary," Greenfield said of the jail's vaccination program. "As an incentive, inmates who sign up get a $10 commissary credit — $5 credit after their first shot and $5 after their second."

The jail's commissary has snacks, personal hygiene and other items available to purchase.

Greenfield said as most jail inmates are county residents, any inmate who receives the first shot, but subsequently is released before their second shot, would be able to get the second dose at Meadville Medical Center's clinics or other similar clinics.

Vaccinated inmates who would transfer to another jail before receiving the second shot still have some COVID-19 protection due the first dose, according to the warden.

Greenfield said he was pleased to have 50 out of the jail's current 161 inmates wanting to receive the vaccine.

"I would have liked to have seen more sign up, but about a third of our population isn't too bad," he said Thursday.

Don Rhoten, Meadville Medical Center's vice president of consumer engagement, said the hospital appreciated the work of Warden Greenfield and jail staff as well as the inmates who volunteered to receive the vaccine.

"MMC continues to provide vaccines to as many people as possible and we encourage everyone to sign up on our website to receive theirs if they have not," he said.

Keith Gushard can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at kgushard@meadvilletribune.com.

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