On March 2, 2021, a month after my first dose on January 29, 2021, I received my second and final Moderna Vaccine shot in New Jersey State Prison (NJSP) and became one of the first set of prisoners who got fully inoculated in the New Jersey Department of Correction (NJDOC).
The vaccinations took place in the South Compound Visit Hall (SCVH) of NJSP. In normal days, our regular religious services are held in this very same hall. So, sitting on an armless blue plastic chair while filling out the required ‘disclosure forms’ about my health and medical history, I couldn’t stop noticing the small blue-tape ‘X’ marks on the white linoleum tiles of the SCVH. Because last summer, I along with the NJSP Chaplaincy Supervisor and staff had marked the same hall floor for the then limited religious services that had started after a temporary decline in the infections within NJDOC facilities. Subsequently, after the second wave of infections, the services were cancelled.
For both of my vaccine shots, I was called out to the SCVH at 7:30 am after our morning count. And after filling out the required forms, I and four other prisoners from my housing unit received our injections by nurses and medical professionals from outside of our facility. Each time, we were made to sit for an additional 15 minutes to see if there were any adverse reactions to the vaccines.
The whole process of vaccination in NJSP took place in a sequence that started in the fall of 2020. Originally, through institutional JPAY kiosk system, an inquiry form was opened for the prisoners to sign up for the then upcoming vaccines. The kiosk inquiry form listed the following options:
1. I am interested in the vaccine;
2. I am NOT interested in the vaccine.,
Later on, NJSP medical staff nurses went to each housing unit of the prison with a paper survey form that provided an additional choice, “I might be interested on a later date.”
Thus, with a systematic approach of request, survey, age, and chronic care requirements, prisoners were selected for vaccines in the first batch. Moreover, according to a nurse, the civilian and custody staff of the prison was also given voluntary option to take the vaccine as well.
After each injection, a “Fact Sheet for Recipients and Caregivers” was also passed out to all who received the vaccine. It explained, with meticulous detail, the CDC “Emergency Use Authorization (EUA)” process, the definition of COVID-19, information about the Moderna Vaccine, its ingredients, history, uses, benefits, risks, side effects, and related health concerns.
Furthermore, links, addresses, and numbers to CDC, FDA, and Moderna Vaccine manufacturers were also provided to everyone who received the vaccination.
In addition to the above, “I GOT MY COVID-19 VACCINE” stickers, and a bilingual CDC “COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card” that listed pertinent information as recipients’ names, dates of birth, name of the vaccine, dates of injections/Doses (1st and 2nd) were also provided to everyone who was vaccinated.
Here, in NJSP, at the end, where the State of New Jersey prisons were the worst hit with the COVID-19 pandemic and the NJDOC Administration was being lambasted in the public arena, the vaccination process, in contrast, is being run flawlessly; and the NJDOC should be applauded for such an exemplary job.
–By Tariq MaQbool