Montana inmates still remain hesitant about COVID-19 vaccines

GREAT FALLS, Mont. - Despite experiencing a large COVID-19 outbreak months ago, The Montana Department of Corrections says nearly half of all inmates are still choosing not to be vaccinated.

After seeing vaccination numbers plateau for the last several weeks the DOC says if this continues, they may have to go back and re-evaluate some of the safety precautions once again.

Right now, all DOC ran facilities have 50%-60% of all inmates vaccinated.

Pine Hills Youth Correctional sits at the bottom with only 50% of inmates vaccinated while the State Prison sits at the top with a 59% vaccination rate.

Although these facilities are seeing a decline in COVID-19 cases, Director Brian Gootkin says not being vaccinated could stir up some questions in the future.

"If we have a positive test in the facility, yet we have people in the facility that refuse to be vaccinated, do we still shut down? So, that's going to be an ongoing conversation," Gootkin said.

Even though correctional facilities are doing their best to keep inmates safe, Sheriff Jesse Slaughter says if people choose to not get vaccinated, there's nothing they can do about it.

"We will do our best to make sure that people are somewhat lockdown when they get into the facility so we can quarantine them as best as we can. But the reality is that the business of corrections has to continue on regardless," Sheriff Slaughter said.

Gootkin says volunteers have been speaking to inmates about the importance of getting vaccinated, but right now their next step is to speak with health officials to decide where they go from here.

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