Genesee County begins providing COVID-19 vaccines to incarcerated citizens

FLINT, Michigan -- Incarcerated citizens at the Genesee County Jail began receiving COVID-19 vaccines on March 15.

The Genesee County Sheriff’s Department began administering the Johnson & Johnson version of the vaccine to approximately 600 inmates. The Johnson & Johnson version of the vaccine is a one-dose shot, while the Pfizer and Moderna versions of the vaccine require two shots.

“Taking the one-shot (dose) will allow the men and women to receive the protection they need as they await trial and upon their release,” said Percy Glover, Genesee County ambassador.

According to the Center for Disease Control, the vaccine is voluntary and is not recommended for those that recently had a severe allergic reaction. Pain, redness, and swelling are the common side effects at the injection site. However, it has been reported that tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, fever, and nausea surfaced and disappeared within a few days.  Many view the peace of mind coming from the shot as being worth it, especially for our most vulnerable populations, including inmates.

“The sheriff will continue to fight for the inmates,” said Genesee County ambassador Johnell Allen-Bey. “Although they are at the county jail, they are still a protected population, and they are innocent until proven guilty.”

Genesee County’s I.G.N.I.T.E. program, an approach to jail reform focusing on human rights, is gaining nationwide attention.   

According to Sheriff Chris Swanson, I.G.N.I.T.E. was created to eliminate generational incarceration through education, by “restoring value, hope, and purpose to our inmate population.”

Adding to I.G.N.I.T.E.'s resume, inmates were able to cast their ballots from jail in the November 2020 presidential election. National media followed county ambassadors as they hand-delivered ballots to the county clerk's office. 

I.G.N.I.T.E. is also supporting inmates by providing the opportunity to receive assistance with registering for the Flint Water Crisis Class Action Lawsuit. Former Flint City attorney and Genesee County assistant prosecutor Trachelle C. Young will administer the legal assistance for inmates exposed to Flint water from 2014-2020.

Read more articles by Ladel Lewis.