Norfolk, Va. — Virginia Organizing announced today that the Norfolk Health Department has finally scheduled vaccinations for people incarcerated at the Norfolk City Jail after months of attempts to push for this necessary step.
In February, Virginia Organizing reached out to the Norfolk Health Department to inquire how they were handling vaccine shots for vulnerable populations such as unhoused, undocumented, and incarcerated people. After months of unreturned calls, a call-in day, and letters to the editor, the Norfolk Chapter got a response and scheduled a meeting.
“The Health Department assured us that they had been in contact with the sheriff’s department and that a private group was contracted to give shots to incarcerated folks who wanted to receive the vaccine,” said Glynis Mason, a leader in the Norfolk Chapter. “However, the Sheriff’s office alerted us that they had been unsuccessful in their attempts to make arrangements with the Health Department and that none of the inmates had received the vaccine. Incarcerated populations were in section 1b and should have been given vaccinations months ago.
“Our organization immediately began contacting the Health Department about this situation. Within a few days, the Sheriff’s Office informed us that they heard from the Health Department and were able to set a date to get their medical staff trained to give the vaccinations. Vaccine shots were scheduled to begin Monday, May 17.”
Patrice Smallwood, another Norfolk Chapter member, said, “It is a sad and harsh reality when vulnerable populations, which should receive special attention, are actually rejected and overlooked. For this reason, I am grateful for the advocacy work of Virginia Organizing in pressing the Norfolk Health Department to get our incarcerated folks vaccinated.”
Ruth Osorio, Virginia Organizing member and local educator, emphasized the injustice of the delay.
“Public health is for everyone, regardless of incarceration status. It’s clear that COVID has had drastic impacts on people of color and poor people, populations that are overrepresented in jails. That’s why vaccine access is so important,” Osorio said.
To interview a spokesperson about this work, contact Rosemary Gould at 434-962-7261 or firstname.lastname@example.org.