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Rantz: Gary Ridgway, inmates in process of receiving COVID vaccines, well before your grandparents

Gary Ridgway could soon be getting his COVID vaccine. (Getty Images)

Green River Killer Gary Ridgway and other inmates may likely get a COVID-19 vaccine before desperate grandparents who have been struggling to even make an appointment.

Washingtonians over the age of 65 who haven’t committed any felonies are worried about their well-being as they desperately seek vaccinations. And newly released documents indicate the general public won’t get a vaccine until the summer, which will stall our ability to return to any semblance of normalcy.

Yet Washington inmates have already started to receive their vaccines.

Washington inmates getting vaccines

Washingtonians have struggled to find vaccine availability for weeks. Appointments have been cancelled at the last minute thanks to redirected vaccines, and mass vaccination sites have been prematurely shut down due to vaccine shortages.

In a Feb. 2 memo, the Department of Corrections (DOC) announced that as of Feb. 1, “they began vaccinating members of the incarcerated population that are over the age of 65.”

Inmates are being selected based solely on their age eligibility, not the severity of their crimes. Meanwhile, a prisoner who committed murder or rape is treated the same as a lower-level offender. But they are, however, having an easier time getting a vaccine than a grandmother in Sultan or a great-grandfather in Tacoma. That’s equity in Washington.

Yes, Gary Ridgway will be vaccinated before you

According to the DOC, there are very few prisoners over the age of 65. The latest numbers available online come from Dec. 31, 2020. It shows only 273 prisoners over the age of 65, which includes 71-year-old Ridgway, the nation’s second most-prolific murderer.

“All DOC employees and incarcerated individuals aged 65 or older, regardless of job duties or location,” will get the vaccine, a spokesperson for the DOC tells the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH.

The DOC will not, however, confirm Ridgway has been vaccinated as “the Department is not be able to discuss a specific individual’s health information unless supplied with a signed release of information from the individual.”

Ridgway is currently serving time in Walla Walla. When will they get vaccination shipments? It remains unclear. It would appear that Coyote Ridge Corrections Center Sage East Unit has received vaccinations so far.

“The ability to provide vaccine doses is based on the supply available to the state,” according to the memo from Dan Johnson, Assistant Secretary of Health Services, and Frank Longano, Deputy Chief Medical Officer. “The Department expects this vaccination phase to take several weeks, based on the current limited availabilty [sic] of vaccine doses. Additionally the Department continues to offer vaccine to staff eligible during Phase 1A who have not yet been vaccinated.”

Governor Jay Inslee’s office is defending the move, even though the optics are clearly problematic.

Inslee’s office defends move

Through a spokesperson, Inslee’s office is backing the DOC move to vaccinate inmates who qualify under the governor’s plan. They treat hardened felons the same as loved ones in elder care facilities.

“Everyone who is 65 and older is eligible, as well as those people who work in long-term care facilities,” the spokesperson tells the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH via email. “Many DOC facilities do have what are essentially long-term care facilities as they have people who are old and sick. As you may know, there are some high cases in some prison facilities and those can be spread to the general population through prison guards coming in and out of the facilities. So regardless of how you feel about the prison population, it also impacts people who work in these facilities and bring the disease home to their families and into their communities.”

Staff members who qualified were already offered vaccines prior to these inmates getting their doses.

“We recognize there is frustration about vaccines and we have heard it. We are trying to get as many people vaccinated as possible with the limited doses we are receiving from the federal government,” the spokesperson concluded.

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show weekday afternoons from 3-6 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (or HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here. Follow @JasonRantz on Twitter, and Instagram and like me on Facebook.


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