The Colorado Black Democratic Legislative Caucus has penned a letter to Governor Jared Polis urging him to reconsider his decision to remove incarcerated individuals in jail or prison as a high-risk population so that they can receive priority COVID-19 vaccinations.
Governor Polis announced that the state would not prioritize vaccinating the incarcerated community on Tuesday, December 1, despite the state’s plan to vaccinate them close to the same time as essential workers like teachers and grocery store workers. The letter notes that the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) declared racism a public health crisis, stating: “by failing to align actions with this declaration across the spectrum of public health policy decisions, we risk making this critical declaration meaningless.”
“The CDC has recognized that those working and living inside a prison are at increased risk for infection and that their risk to infect members of the community where prisons are located is exponentially higher as well,” said Representative Leslie Herod (D-Denver), Chair of the Colorado Black Caucus. “Communities of color, and Black people specifically, are over-represented in the prison population and over-represented in COVID deaths,” Leslie said.
Black and Native Americans within the state are three times more likely to e incarcerated than white Americans, while Latinx Coloradans are two times more likely to be incarcerated. These groups also suffer from increased levels of hospitalization and death due to COVID-19.
The Colorado Black Democratic Legislative Caucus claims that this is an issue of health equity and that the state must follow science to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine.
“The impact of COVID-19 has been devastating for communities of color,” said Sen. Elect Janet Buckner (D-Aurora). “Any vaccine distribution plan should take into account health equity and the disproportionate amount of people of color who live in congregate settings while incarcerated,” Janet said.
For more information regarding the Colorado Black Caucus, visit: http://blackcaucusco.com