Judge Rules New York Must Offer COVID Vaccine To Inmates

New York must immediately begin offering COVID vaccinations to all incarcerated people in the state’s prisons and jails, a state judge ruled Monday. CBS2's Christina Fan reports.

Video Transcript

MAURICE DUBOIS: Welcome back at 5:30. I'm Maurice DuBois.

KRISTINE JOHNSON: And I'm Kristine Johnson. Right now at 5:30, incarcerated New Yorkers can now receive a coronavirus vaccine.

MAURICE DUBOIS: The order coming a day after a judge blasted the state for leaving them out of the vaccine rollout. CBS News' Christina Fan has the story.

CHRISTINA FAN: They are one of the most vulnerable populations in this pandemic. And for months, those in state jails and prisons have been left out of New York's vaccine rollout. Attorney Meghna Philip, who brought on a lawsuit on behalf of two men from Rikers, says her clients have been living in a state of persistent fear.

MEGHNA PHILIP: In our conversations, they spoke about being in close quarters with other incarcerated people, about crowding in the dorms, about eating alongside people who are unmasked, sharing bathrooms.

CHRISTINA FAN: Activists say those incarcerated should have had access to vaccines weeks ago when others living in congregate settings became eligible. On Monday, a state Supreme Court judge agreed, ordering officials to immediately offer vaccinations to all incarcerated people, calling New York's decision to leave them out of the rollout unfair and unjust. Andre Ward is an advocate who works with people recently released.

ANDRE WARD: I felt really troubled by the neglect that people experienced, which by extension is really a form of abuse.

CHRISTINA FAN: Governor Cuomo's office complied with the ruling quickly, announcing eligibility will be expanded to all those behind bars starting today.

MEGHNA PHILIP: Obviously they are a politically marginalized group, and that's why it was even more important for us to bring this lawsuit to vindicate their constitutional rights.

CHRISTINA FAN: With coronavirus continuing to rage on in jails and prisons, advocates are hoping the order will help stop the spread. So far 35 incarcerated people have died, and more than 6,200 have tested positive. Christina Fan, CBS 2 News.